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Case: Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet

Location: The Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet is located on the northwest side of Suisun Bay (the northern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay estuary). The fleet is within a regulated navigation area that is about 4 1/2 miles and 1/2 mile wide. It begins just north of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge and runs northeast, parallel to the shoreline. Water depths range from about 14 meters (45 feet) at Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) at the foot of the anchorage, to about 8 meters (26 feet) MLLW at the shallowest berths towards the northern end of the anchorage.


Project status: During July 2008, staff collected sediment and tissue samples for chemical analysis. Monthly updates were posted to this website, and the final data report was made available in early March 2009.

Overview: The U.S. Maritime Administration maintains a fleet of vessels that serve as a reserve of ships for national defense and national emergency purposes. The reserve fleet program was begun in 1946 at the end of World War II. At its peak in 1950, the program had more than 2,000 ships in lay-up. One of the reserve fleet storage sites is in Suisun Bay, the northern portion of San Francisco Bay. More than 70 vessels currently make up the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet.

The State of California and several environmental groups have raised concerns about the environmental impacts of the fleet. Potential concerns include heavy metals and antifouling agents in the paint that is peeling off of the vessels, as well as PCBs and other hazardous materials that may have been released. Congress responded to these concerns by funding NOAA to design and implement a study of contaminants in the vicinity of the fleet.

NOAA's DARRP program began work on this project in January 2008. Since then, NOAA's team has assessed existing data from the area to determine data gaps, researched the history and environmental setting of the site, discussed the project with numerous stakeholders, conducted a site visit, and developed and refined and sampling and analysis plan. NOAA deployed bivalve samples in June 2008 and collected sediment and bivalve tissue samples from the area in July 2008. A second field sampling event for additional tissue samples occurred in September. These samples were analyzed and a data report was delivered in early 2009.

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