America's Cup Could Unleash Killer Kelp

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Apr 1, 2011  |  Updated 12:01 PM PDT
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America's Cup Could Unleash Killer Kelp

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The America's Cup could bring with it a very unwelcome visitor: undaria pinnatifida. That's an invasive species of kelp that grows fast and chokes out much-needed native varieties.

A variety of underwater species rely on native algae for food and shelter. But the invading kelp has been shown to crowd out natives in other locations around the world. Now, it's set up residence in the San Francisco bay, and construction for the America's Cup could send it drifting even further.

Environmentalists are worried that kelp colonies could be disturbed by the extensive demolition and dredging that America's Cup construction will require, according to the Bay Citizen. If that happens, reproductive organs could be sent drifting to areas around the bay that are so far uninfected. That, in turn, could potentially wipe out the fragile animals that rely on the native varieties.

It's unclear what the city will do to prevent that from happening. One possibility: ringing construction sites with nets to prevent contamination.

But time is of the essence, and extensive environmental protections will be extremely difficult given the narrow timeframe.

The watery construction is just one of the massive public works projects that will be necessary for the competition in 2013. This week the city released a draft of its "People Plan" for transporting visitors, according to the SF Appeal.

The plan emphasizes bikes and public transit, and would bolster the nascent bikeshare infrastructure alongside stronger service on certain Muni lines. That is, if Muni still exists in 2013.

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