One month to read a 1,600-page DEIR on the America's Cup: Ready, set, go!

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The America's Cup environmental approval process is moving faster than 30 knots

Members of the public will have a chance to offer feedback on the massive draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the America's Cup at the Planning Commision on August 11 -- one month from the date of the DEIR release, July 11. Anyone interested in weighing in on far-reaching plans for the Northern Waterfront during the world-famous sailing matches in 2012, 2013, and beyond ought to download the report now and start diving in. To absorb the whole thing, you'd have to read 53 pages a day.

Representatives from the Port of San Francisco, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and America's Cup Race Management gathered in San Francisco City Hall July 11 for a briefing on the landmark document. Race organizers are aiming to wrap up the environmental review process by the end of the year.

Iain Murray, CEO of America's Cup Race Management, spoke about the history of the regatta, the sailing events planned around the globe from now until the 2013 match, and the challenges even the world's most skilled sailors will encounter while learning to pilot the specialized America's Cup vessels.

Brad Benson of the Port of San Francisco explained that Pier 27 would serve as a primary public viewing area during the event and a focal point for city activities during the match, complete with spectator vessels. He also noted that preparations for the race would involve dredging and sub-structure improvements at Piers 30-32, which would house cranes for lifting the giant boats in and out of the water.

Yet none of the speakers spoke directly about the findings of the DEIR.

"What we'd like to do is let the document speak for itself," said Michael Martin, America's Cup Project Director, after a reporter asked him to provide a summary. Martin also noted that a number of locations were being studied as areas where members of the public could congregate during the races, including Crissy Field, Aquatic Park, and Fort Mason. Alcatraz would likely be used for private events, he added.

The DEIR is a hefty document which we've barely begun to peek at. It encompasses plans not only for the America's Cup, but a two-story, 91,000-square foot cruise terminal at Pier 27 that would serve ships carrying as many as 4,000 passengers. (The green shoreside power hookup there, as we reported last week, will be temporarily disabled, negatively impacting air quality.)

If the proposal is approved as written, the core and shell of the cruise terminal would be built to house the America's Cup operations as part of the America's Cup Village at Piers 27-29. After the 2013 events, the rest of the facility would be completed.

Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental organizations that have been involved in the planning process released a statement expressing "guarded optimism" about the DEIR. Made up of representatives from San Francisco Baykeeper, San Francisco Tomorrow, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the groups signalled that they would be keeping a close eye on issues such as traffic congestion, the impacts of crowding near sensitive habitats in the Presidio and other viewing areas, carbon-reduction plans, and impacts to Bay water quality and marine life.

“Our organizations are committed to a green and carbon negative event and this is just the first step in ensuring that we get that,” said Teri Shore, Program Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We need to have a thorough understanding of the impacts of the event, how they will be mitigated, and who will pay.” 

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