Port of Redwood City to pick ferry site soon 

Port officials are charting a course to choose a site for a new mid-Peninsula ferry terminal by mid-July.

The Port of Redwood City has hired experts at the CHS Group to analyze possible sites and determine which location would be least likely to disrupt nearby wildlife habitats as well as adjacent businesses and live-in boat communities. CHS Group will also deliver a preliminary design and cost estimate for establishing and operating the ferry terminal and service, Port Director Michael Giari said.

"We’re just looking at what we’d call show-stoppers — whether there are any environmental conditions that would knock out one site or another," CHS Group’s Michael Fajans said. Once a location and design are finalized, a full environmental review will take place.

Experts at the California Fish and Wildlife Service have already suggested a number of sites and species that need to be protected, including the tidal marshes along Bair and Greco islands where the endangered clapper rail makes its nests.

"If the wake [from boats] is too high, it could easily wipe out a nestor even eliminate the edges of the tidal marshes on Greco Island," said Clyde Morris, manager of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Noise from boats could also be disruptive to animals, particularly migratory birds that aren’t accustomed to the noises made by machines or people.

However, Morris thinks most of these issues can be resolved.

"I’m sure there are boats that have less wake than others — or no wake. I don’t think these issues will stop the project if they are willing to address them," Morris said.

Officials have not yet determined how much establishing the service will cost — or where the money will come from, said Steve Castleberry, CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority. Nor have they decided whether ferries, which could be up and running by 2011, would take passengers to San Francisco or the East Bay.

Redwood City’s costs could be higher or lower than then $40.5 million experts estimated it would cost to build and operate a ferry terminal in South San Francisco, which is scheduled to begin service to the East Bay in 2008. However, those costs have since ballooned to $50.4 million to improve the breakwater at Oyster Point.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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