California Government Code

Sec. § 66540.1

The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:


In 1999, based on the findings and analyses in a study sponsored by the Bay Area Council, the Legislature created the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority for purposes of preparing a bay area water transit implementation and operations plan and operating a comprehensive regional public water transportation system. In 2002, after two years of study, public hearings, collaboration with existing bay area transit and public transportation ferry service providers, and peer review, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority submitted the required plan to the Legislature. The plan included rationale for expanded ferries, ridership projections and routes, potential terminal locations, capital, operating and maintenance costs, vessel specification, and emergency and safety response capabilities.


While the efforts of the existing San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority to develop a regional water transit plan are commendable, the country has seen several significant disasters, including the 9/11 tragedy and Hurricane Katrina, which have emphasized the need for coordinated emergency response. From the lessons learned from those events, it is apparent that the bay area’s current emergency response infrastructure is not sufficient to respond to emergencies of the magnitude witnessed in the past few years and anticipated in the future.


In 2006, the Bay Area Council sponsored a study on the role a comprehensive public water transportation system would play in the bay area’s emergency response infrastructure. The 2006 study found that a comprehensive water transportation system is vital to emergency preparedness and response for the region. If bridges, roads, highways, tunnels, and trains are out of service as a result of an emergency, only the waters of the bay are certain to remain open for traffic. However, current infrastructure and equipment capabilities are grossly inadequate. Ferry terminals exist in only a few locations on the bay, and the vessel fleet lacks the capacity to make up for even one out-of-service bridge. The few vessels that exist are in the hands of many different public and private owners and operators, and there is no detailed plan or identified leader to activate and coordinate them.


The study further urged that action be taken immediately to strengthen and expand the regional public water transportation system so that the bay area would be prepared in the event of a catastrophic emergency. The San Francisco Bay area is almost certain to experience moderate to severe earthquakes in the foreseeable future. A major earthquake or a series of earthquakes on any of the region’s faults would have the potential of closing thousands of area roads and rendering some or all transbay bridges and mass transit lines impassable. With the regional transportation system disabled, first responders would be unable to help tens of thousands of homeless, injured, and starving victims. A failure of transportation would be particularly devastating to the most vulnerable of our population, the elderly, children, and the poor. The loss of any portion of the regional transportation system, from either a natural or manmade disaster, would place lives and property at risk and would seriously undermine the San Francisco Bay area economy.


It is the responsibility of the state to protect and preserve the right of its citizens to a safe and peaceful existence. To accomplish this goal and to minimize the destructive impact of disasters and other massive emergencies, the actions of numerous public agencies must be coordinated to effectively manage all four phases of emergency activity: preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. It is a matter of statewide interest to establish an expanded and coordinated regional water transportation system to provide necessary security, flexibility, and mobility for disaster response and recovery in the San Francisco Bay area. This transcends any local interest, and requires a single governmental entity with appropriate powers and scope of authority to serve this statewide interest.


As emergencies and other catastrophic events are certain (only the timing is unpredictable), it is crucial for immediate action to be taken to develop and implement these emergency response strategies. It is not only impractical, but rather impossible, to cobble together an emergency water transportation system after the fact. It is a task of years, not months, to make the real changes and create the essential infrastructure for an integrated and comprehensive water transit emergency system. In light of the ever-present threat, it is imperative to begin this crucial effort without delay.


The public interest requires swift action and steadfast resolve to prepare for the coming earthquakes, as well as other emergencies, with the speed and determination that is due for a threat of this magnitude. The water transit emergency response and recovery system must be fully implemented as quickly as possible, as if the lives of bay area residents depend on it, because they do.


It is a matter of statewide interest to stimulate the maximum use of the San Francisco Bay for emergency response and recovery. The geographical situation of the San Francisco Bay makes it ideal for emergency response and recovery, but at the same time prevents the full utilization of the bay by acting as a physical barrier to an effective transportation system between the various jurisdictions surrounding the bay. Only a specially created local entity of regional government can freely operate in the numerous individual units of county, city and county, and city governments located in the area. In order to protect the lives and livelihoods of the bay area, the Legislature in this act establishes a new governmental entity specifically charged and empowered with the responsibility to plan, implement, and manage these critical services and facilities, as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Last accessed
Jun. 6, 2016