A picture of Eagle Rock Aggregates' facility at the Port of Long Beach. A similar facility could soon be built near West Oakland. (Credit: Eagle Rock Aggregates LLC)

A rock and gravel storage facility could soon come to the Port of Oakland, despite objections from West Oakland environmental activists concerned that particles from piles of sand and rock could blow into the air breathed by residents downwind from the site. 

The Board of Port Commissioners on Thursday is scheduled to vote on a 12-year lease with Eagle Rock Aggregates to build a bulk marine terminal on the Outer Harbor to store the loose materials, which would later be trucked to a West Oakland cement plant. 

Thursday’s vote would give final approval, following the commission’s certification of the project’s environmental impact report in December. The terms allow for options to extend the lease for another five or 10 years, and up to a maximum of 27 years. 

Port officials say the lease would generate $4.7 million a year on average and $56.2 million through the initial term of the contract, help diversify port operations, and provide much needed cement to the local building economy.  

Eagle Rock Aggregates has had a presence in the Bay Area since 2007, with a terminal at the privately owned Levin Terminal in Richmond and its aggregates (particulate building materials like sand and gravel) can be found in the foundation of the Bay Bridge and in downtown Oakland high-rise buildings, a company executive said. 

If approved, Eagle Rock will invest $30 to $55 million to improve the 18-acre facility and 3-acres of water at berths 20-22, which Ports America used until ending operations in 2016. Sand and aggregate would be shipped from a quarry on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where the company is based, and off-loaded and stored at the berths. From there, the material would be trucked to a cement plant at Peralta Street between 24th and 26th streets. 

The project is the latest concern for environmental activists who have long fought for cleaner air in West Oakland, which is home to metal processing, steel and cement companies and surrounded by multiple freeways and the port. Air pollution in West Oakland has contributed higher rates of respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and cancer compared to more affluent areas of the city.

Members of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a community-based environmental justice organization, worry the project will only worsen air quality. 

Ms. Margaret Gordon, co-director of WOEIP, told The Oaklandside small particles from the facility are likely to blow into the air West Oakland residents breathe. Unlike at the Levin Terminal in Richmond, the storage facility will not be covered. Plans call for the sand and gravel to be watered down. 

“We are going backwards,” Gordon said in a phone interview. “They are back in the 1990s, when I first started getting involved in West Oakland.”

In an op-ed published in the East Bay Times Wednesday, Gordon and co-director Brian Beveridge said the project allows for “diesel ships to idle at the terminal, spewing pollutants, instead of cleaner engines and onshore power.” 

“The aggregate facility would require eliminating 18 acres of truck parking,” they wrote. “Just like the fine particles that will soon be blowing our way, these trucks will increase traffic, spew exhaust and congest our streets as they struggle to park.” 

Port officials, in a statement sent Wednesday, countered that the project has “several environmental-related features that exceed current regulatory requirements.” Those measures include using electric trucks to deliver construction materials, a strategy to reduce vessel emissions, and ways to reduce the likelihood of dust escaping from the site. 

“The proposed project would supply much-needed construction materials to the Bay Area, which will be used for many local construction projects that support housing, the economy and jobs,” according to the statement provided by spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur. 

Keven Wasylyshyn, Eagle Rock’s vice president of commercial operations, said the company has been working with the port to “develop a project that is consistent with the State of California’s goals for reducing overall environmental impacts while also supporting the regional need for increased housing and supporting high-paying long-term local labor jobs.”

Thursday’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. and can be accessed on Zoom at this link. The agenda can be found here.  

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.