SAN FRANCISCO
01/20/2012 05:40 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2012

America's Cup Pollution Levels Raise Environmentalists' Ire

New estimates of the number of boats expected to hit the water when the America's Cup takes over the San Francisco Bay during the next two years have raised eyebrows among many Bay Area environmentalists, who are concerned the race's organizers are significantly underestimating the amount of pollution that will be released during the event.

Estimates for the number of boats on the water watching the proceedings during the qualifying races this coming fall were initially pegged around 1,833 and around 2,200 were predicted for major 2013 races.

Now city officials have scaled back their estimates to only 330 for this year's races and around 800 for next year's.

In a letter sent to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Bay Area Air Quality Management District pollution control officer Jean Roggenkamp expressed doubts about accuracy of the new numbers and said the city may still have to pay millions to offset the emissions released into the air during the event.

The Bay Citizen reports:

Michael Martin, San Francisco's America's Cup project director, said the revised estimates were based on a study of vessel traffic during Fleet Week, a popular annual military celebration best known for airplane flyovers.

"The consultants that prepared the first analysis stand by the second one," Martin said. "We knew we needed to do some more analytical work to refine those numbers, so we did a more systematic boat count during this fall's Fleet Week. We basically inflated that number by more than one-quarter to take a conservative estimate."

While race organizers have made a concerted effort to make the event "green," such as mandating the use of low-emission boat engines and using shore-based power sources at docking areas, that hasn't satisfied some environmental groups.

There are currently two appeals blocking the city from proceeding with America's Cup-related construction before the Board of Supervisors.

The fist comes from a coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups (the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Waterfront Watch and San Francisco Tomorrow) and the second was filed by the San Francisco Sierra Club.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

City planners failed to analyze water pollution, air pollution and possible diesel fuel leaks from the giant floating TV screen that is slated to be installed in Aquatic Park, wrote Rebecca Evans, chair of the San Francisco chapter [of the Sierra Club], in the appeal. Members of the city's Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club have threatened to swim there in protest of the JumboTron.

"Without this information," Evans wrote, "the potentially significant impacts to water quality from the project's extensive dredging activities cannot be assessed."

The board is expected to rule on these appeals during its January 24th meeting.

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