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103 15 Immediate Challenges: The Mountain View Project The life expectancy of Sierra Point was cut to about four years, so we knew we had to develop a long-term master plan for San Francisco ’s waste. In the interim, many people and large firms came up with solutions to get rid of garbage: composting, waste-toenergy products, and mass-burning technology to mention only a few, with names like Westinghouse, Monsanto, and Combustion Engineering. One of the most promising methods to come before us was from the Western Pacific Railroad, which had options on property in Lassen County, some 300 miles north of San Francisco. Western Pacific suggested that garbage be transferred from the scavenger trucks into large, custom-designed containers, loaded onto flatbed railcars, and transported by rail from San Francisco to a site just southeast of Susanville, California. Serious negotiations commenced immediately between the City of San Francisco, the scavengers, and the Western Pacific Railroad. The city wanted to jump on that idea because the site offered 100-plus years of disposal capacity, and the railroad wanted reve­ nues to enhance its economic stability. Negotiations started with S. Myron Tatarian, San Francisco’s director of public works; David Copenhagen, vice president of the Western Pacific Railroad; and John Moscone and me, representatives of Sanitary Fill Company. Initially, the estimated rate offered by Western Pacific began at $10 per ton, making it attractive to the city. There’s a rule of thumb in the garbage business: If you have to haul garbage for more than twenty miles from the point of collection to the point of disposal, it becomes inefficient. Some form of transfer station would be needed so the smaller garbage trucks could dump the waste into larger, more efficient hauling vehicles. If the proposed landfill were more than fifty-five miles away, the garbage could be put on a railcar. In this situation, the idea of rail hauling waste to Lassen County could work, but only if the proposed disposal rate did not exceed $15 per ton. (The current disposal rate for a nearby landfill was $3.50 per ton.) The concept of rail made sense, but the matter of cost became 104 Immediate Challenges: The Mountain View Project questionable. Over the two-month negotiations, the $10-per-ton maximum rate originally being negotiated began to increase to $35–$40 a ton. I was concerned that the rail company was putting us into a corner; with each passing day, we were losing valuable time to seek an alternate system and being forced to accept the railroad’s proposal, regardless of price. My suspicions became fact in time. I guess what helped was my training in submarines, where you use every system you have on board and make sure that you have redundancy (backups). In other words, we needed a backup system for garbage disposal if we could not generate a reasonable contract with the Western Pacific Railroad. During the course of the negotiations, I was informed by a colleague, Jessie Weigle, that Foothill Disposal Company, which served the City of Mountain View, had received a federal grant to build a regional park. It was planning to create this park, total­ ing over 700 acres of land, within the city limits of Mountain View, only thirty-two miles south of San Francisco. It was a little known, negative environmental fact that approx­ imately 25,000 acres in the south end of San Francisco Bay had subsided below sea level because of aggressive and excessive pumping of aquifers over the years. To compensate for this loss, state and local agencies had built an extensive levee system to keep the tidal water out. However, when it rains, freshwater flows into these areas as well as the area below sea level, or the high mean watermark. This may help restore the aquifers, but it is useless for any other purpose. I was informed that the City of Mountain View owned some 700 acres of this land and was planning to create a regional park with lakes, a golf course, bike trails, and related recreational faci­ lities; however, before the park could be built, the site had to be filled with earth to bring the acreage above sea level. The engineers for the City of Mountain View concluded that six million yards of earthen fill would be required to raise the property above sea level; it was estimated that the cost for fill material would be $6.5 million. However, even...


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MARC Record
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