Caltrans Must Pay $13.5 Million for Contaminating Presidio Lake

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 17, 2011 (ENS) – The California Department of Transportation has agreed to pay $13.5 million to the federal government to resolve claims brought by the Presidio Trust and the U.S. Army concerning Caltrans’ construction and operation of Highway 1, also known as Park Presidio Boulevard, through the Presidio of San Francisco.

The settlement resolves the United States’ claims for breach of a 1938 permit that authorized Caltrans to build Highway 1 through the Presidio and required Caltrans to repair any damage caused by construction and operation of the highway.

The United States filed an action in federal court in January 2009 alleging that runoff from Highway 1 has contaminated Mountain Lake sediment containing lead, copper, zinc and other substances, and that highway drainage facilities are in need of repair or replacement.

Mountain Lake on the Presidio in San Francisco, California (Photo by Omunene)

Under the settlement, Caltrans will pay $5.5 million to the United States for remediation of Mountain Lake, $4 million for re-configuring the Mountain Lake overflow pipeline and $500,000 for the Presidio’s legal costs.

In addition Caltrans will fund and construct a run-off diversion project, at an estimated cost of $3.5 million, so that contaminants from Highway 1 will no longer enter Mountain Lake.

“Today marks a step forward to preserve and protect Mountain Lake, which is one of the city’s only natural lakes and is an integral part of San Francisco’s treasured Presidio,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.

“After decades of lead and other contamination of Mountain Lake, today’s settlement will fund both the cleanup and the infrastructure to protect this natural resource long into the future,” Moreno said.

Located on San Francisco Bay, the Presidio served as an army post for 218 years; it is now designated a National Historic Landmark. The Presidio lies within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and features natural, historic, scenic, cultural and recreational resources.

Mountain Lake is at the southern edge of the Presidio and is one of the few natural lakes in San Francisco and the only lake within the Presidio.

The Presidio has one of the most diverse bird populations of any urban park in the world, with over 200 species. This diversity is possible because of its variety of different habitats, from the open ocean to the protected bay. We have tidal marshes, coastal scrub, grasslands and mixed woodlands. Since the Presidio lies on a major bird migratory route along the West Coast, it is a stop-over for birds from as far away as the Arctic and South America.

Mountain Lake attracts these migratory birds, resident wildlife such as gray foxes, as well as frequent human visitors.

The lake fronts a neighborhood park, playground and a small beach. A walking path and trail surrounds a large part of Mountain Lake, which is accessible by foot and bicycle.

“The Trust is working closely with regulators to ensure that the cleanup of Mountain Lake is protective of human health and the environment,” said Eileen Fanelli, environmental remediation manager for the Presidio Trust. “This settlement with Caltrans will allow us to stay on schedule and complete the remediation of lake sediment by 2013.”

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period that begins with the posting of a notice in the Federal Register. The consent decree is online at: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.