The 1,220-acre Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park, near the Oakland Airport, includes 72 acres of restored wetlands and the distinctively shaped Arrowhead Marsh, which reaches out into the waters of San Leandro Bay. These wetlands, in the midst of a commercial and industrial zone, form an important habitat for birds migrating on the Pacific Flyway and for the endangered California clapper rail. Now, local environmental groups say this habitat is threatened by a proposal to build a 2,000-slot-machine casino and seven-story hotel on an adjacent 35-acre vacant parcel. The development is being opposed by the Golden Gate Audubon Society (GGAS) and Save the Bay, both very involved in restoration efforts at the marsh. The Oakland City Council, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and eight state legislators also oppose the project.
The East Bay Regional Park District, which manages the shoreline park, has just completed a five-year wildlife monitoring program in the restored marshlands, identifying a huge diversity of shorebirds and waterfowl. Arthur Feinstein, conservation director for GGAS, notes that San Leandro Bay’s tidal marsh has one of the highest densities of fish in the San Francisco Bay estuary. Feinstein worries that night lights from the casino would interfere with breeding birds, including avocets, black-necked stilts, and pintail ducks, and would leave the clapper rails more vulnerable to nighttime predators.
The Lower Lake Rancheria Koi Nation, a landless federally recognized tribe that is proposing the casino development, touts the project as a potential economic windfall for Oakland and says environmental impacts will be reviewed under federal law. To find out more, visit www.koination.com. To learn more about the proposal’s possible environmental impacts, visit www.goldengateaudubon.org (click on “Conservation”). To express your opinion, write to Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Oakland District Office, 1301 Clay Street, Suite 1000 North, Oakland, CA 94612.