Sunday, October 9, 2011

VA Project Behind Schedule, But Making Headway

The VA clinic and columbarium at Alameda Point are behind schedule from the original timeline.  The property was expected to be conveyed from the Navy to the VA in November of 2011.  The transfer date is now expected to be in November of 2012. The construction completion date has been moved from December 2014 to December 2016, according to the VA.

The process of conveying the land from the Navy to the VA requires favorable determinations on two fronts.  A "Biological Assessment" and an "Environmental Assessment" are both required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The assessments are being jointly prepared by the VA and the Navy.  The NEPA document will be finalized in the summer of 2012.

The Biological Assessment for the 549-acre parcel is required so that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Fish & Wildlife) can write the official Biological Opinion governing the parcel.  It would be within the authority of Fish & Wildlife to place restrictions on the size and location of VA facilities (proposed to occupy 110 acres) based on potential impacts to wildlife.  The parcel contains a successful nesting area for the endangered California Least Terns, which has been managed by Fish & Wildlife for the Navy since the base closed in 1997.  The terns began nesting in the runway area while Navy jets were regularly taking off and landing. The parcel is also home and/or foraging area for other birds.
The Biological Assessment was submitted to Fish & Wildlife in August 2011.  Fish & Wildlife has 135 days to review and respond.  Fish & Wildlife will issue the official Biological Opinion in late spring of 2012.
The Environmental Assessment is being worked on. This assessment includes brief discussions of the need for the proposal, the environmental impacts of the proposed action, alternative options, and a listing of agencies and persons consulted.
An architect has been selected to begin design work on the clinic and columbarium, with the first drawings ready in February 2013.  The first phase will be site preparation, including a roadway and utilities to the site.  Site preparation work will not be completed until December 2014.  

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