History as it happens
Most of us know by now that the Mare Island Naval Shipyard is no longer a military base and that the Shipyard closed in 1996 after 143 years of building, repairing and overhauling ships and submarines. Thousands of local residents are part of Mare Islands long and distinguished history. What we may not know much about is the story unfolding now, history taking shape during its transition to public and private use, as environmental cleanup work gets finished and property gets transferred.
The Mare Island Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) community members have been involved in the environmental restoration process since 1994. We would like to share a brief overview with the readers about whats been happening with the cleanup as Mare Island once again becomes an integral part of the City of Vallejo. We hope the following will give some insight.
How Clean Is Clean?
Land use defines how the cleanup progresses. Many stakeholders are involved, using the Reuse Plan that was developed by the City of Vallejo in 1994 as their guideline. Levels of clean are determined by many factors such as regulatory standards, types of contaminants and anticipated exposure, cleanup costs, State Lands statutes, and community acceptance. Residential use, for instance, requires more stringent standards those required for use
in an industrial area.
What is Early Transfer
Accelerating cleanup of military bases so that property can be quickly converted to civilian use while protecting human health and safety and the environment, is an early transfer process authorized by Congress in 1998. A monumental partnering effort between the City of Vallejo, the Navy and the State of California began when they agreed to take advantage of this relatively new way of completing environmental cleanup and fast-tracking redevelopment at closed military bases.
Two of the City’s major developers, Lennar Mare Island and Weston Solutions, assumed cleanup responsibility for their respective parcels of land as defined by these agreements. Governor Davis signed the official transfer documents in 2001 for the Eastern Early Transfer parcel (Lennar Mare Island) and in 2002 for the Western Early Transfer parcel (Weston). To date, the Navy has delegated $85 million towards the Lennar early transfer parcel cleanup with $55 million more towards Weston’s parcel to be expended over the upcoming years. Together these early transfer parcels cover approximately 3,450 acres.
The Navy is the backbone of the environmental remediation for Mare Island and will retain responsibility for the cleanup well after it has been completed. Because they now hold the most challenging contaminated land, access to certain areas is limited and use restrictions are in place for many leased buildings. The Navy provides funding which is then contracted out for environmental studies, sampling and analysis, feasibility studies, work plans and cleanup actions. Over $200 million has been spent or allocated since closure in 1996.
California State Environmental Protection Agency's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is the main regulatory agency for ensuring that environmental restoration standards are met by the Navy and developers performing cleanup work. DTSC approves all documents and is responsible for enforcement of land use restrictions and making sure the public is informed. The Regional Water Quality Control Board is the lead agency regulating petroleum related cleanups. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also monitors the process and reviews many of the documents.
In 2001, 650 acres of Mare Island were transferred to Lennar Mare Island, the master developer for what is called the Eastern Early Transfer Parcel. Restoration work continues at the site with soil sampling and PCB remediation in this mixed use area. Several segments that now meet unrestricted reuse criteria have been developed for residential construction. The Eastern parcel is expected to be cleaned to regulatory standards by 2012.
Weston Solutions, Inc., an environmental engineering and redevelopment firm, was contracted to complete cleanup of a 230-acre area (Investigation Area H-1), including a former landfill, industrial wastewater treatment facility, waste oil/lead battery disposal area, and other disposal sites. Weston is also responsible for cleanup of buried munitions and other contaminants for two other sites on Mare Island, the 110-acre Western Magazine Area and the 50-acre Investigation Restoration Site 05. Others currently holding Mare Island property include the City of Vallejo, the State Lands Commission, the golf course owner, developers for Roosevelt Terrace and several Federal entities.
State Lands Commission
State Lands Commission plays an important role in the cleanup picture. Certain parts of Mare Island reverted back to the people of California when the base closed, ending a military use agreement lasting 143 years with the US Government. The State Lands Commission insists on certain standards requiring environmental safety and public access on these lands before accepting the property back from the Navy. State Lands will then transfer this property to the City of Vallejo.
The Public and the RAB
The transition of Mare Island from military base to civilian use has been a model for the rest of the nation. By participating in the environmental cleanup process, the RAB provides an opportunity for the public to be part of this important moment in history affecting future generations. RAB meetings continue to be a forum where the community, the Navy, State and Federal regulators, City representatives and master developers converge.
The RAB meetings are held bi-monthly (last Thursday of every other month) at the Mare Island Conference Center located at the west end of the Mare Island Causeway, with presentations and reports of key issues affecting the cleanup. The public is welcome to attend and learn more, and express your concerns. Detailed fact sheet describing specific remedial actions are available, as well as an enormous wealth of information in the JFK Library which is a repository for all public documents related to Mare Island’s cleanup and reuse.
Contact Myrna Hayes, Community CoChair at 707-557-9816, or Janet Lear, Navy CoChair at 619-532-0967 with any questions.
Community Members of the Mare Island Restoration Advisory Board (RAB)