The 12th Street Project celebrated a milestone on Friday, with a parade of boats marking the opening of part of the channel between Lake Merritt and the estuary. It's part of the larger Measure DD work being done around Lake Merritt, and while there is a lot of work still to do, it was worth celebrating the progress.
There were members of the community, local politicians, and various people who have worked on the project on hand to talk about the progress. I was invited by Erik Niemann, who has been tracking the progress of the 12th Street Project on his blog. He was delighted to have lots of people there to check things out, as usually it's just him and the construction crews.
You may recall that Lake Merritt isn't really a lake, but a tidal slough. It was originally more open to the estuary, but was dammed by Samuel Merritt in the 1800s. There have been a long series of engineering mistakes since then, and tearing out "world's shortest freeway" and re-opening some of the channel to the estuary are working to reverse that. The result will be better water flow in and out of Lake Merritt, which will improve water quality, and provide more habitat for fish and birds.
Speakers included mayor Jean Quan; city council president Pat Kernighan; Lesley Estes, Oakland Public Works Watershed Program Supervisor; a representative from the California Coastal Conservancy; Peter Perrine of the California Wildlife Conservation Board; and Dan NcElhinney of CalTrans.
Also on hand were James Vann of the Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM) as well as an architect for the initial proposal; Joel Peter, who was manager of the Measure DD project before he retired recently; people representing the main contractor, McGuire and Hester; and members of the design team, including landscape architects, engineers, and hardscape architects.
The parade of boats included kayaks, stand up paddle boards, a canoe, two dragon boats, the gondolas from Gondola Servizio, and the venerable Oakland Women's Rowing Club. It was a nice bit of symmetry to have the OWRC there, as they were present at an earlier Measure DD celebration, the opening of the Lake Merritt Boathouse back in 2009.
There is still more work to be done, including planting native aquatic plants in the new marsh, landscaping and larger projects like tearing out the culverts at 10th Street, but it was a nice day to celebrate. A larger obstacle is the pumping station at 7th Street, but this is a big step in the right direction.