Tom Butt
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  A Whale of a Tale
June 9, 2022

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
'Bout the flappin' fish and the girls I've loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it's all true
I swear by my tattoo (

Figure 1 - Before

Figure 2 - After

Getting rid of a beached deceased whale is not easily done – if done at all. In this case, the whale did not just randomly end up in Richmond as a result of tides and currents. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) put it there. They arranged to have the whale towed all the way from Alameda in the Bay to Richmond, where they tethered it to Brooks Island, an East Bay Regional Parks property located in Richmond.

Why Richmond? Maybe because Richmond has 32 miles of shoreline, more than any city on San Francisco Bay. But more likely because Richmond is a low-income community predominantly of color perceived as less likely to make a stink (pun intended) about it than, say, Tiburon or Alameda. In any event, neither the USACE nor the East Bay Regional Parks District asked permission from the City of Richmond. This kind of thing has happened before with derelict boats and has cost our city a lot of money.

Unfortunately, the tether did not hold, and the whale floated across the channel, becoming stranded on the beach next to the Bay Trail and immediately in front of one of Richmond’ most expensive neighborhoods, known as Waterline.

All this happened on Memorial Day weekend, which is not a good time to try and contact federal officials, including the USACE. No one is home on Memorial Day Weekend. If you wanted to attack the United States, a 3-day holiday weekend would be a good time. It would be over before anyone in the federal government even found out about it.

During the following week, City officials tried contacting multiple state and federal agencies. No one was willing to help. The USACE told us it is not their problem. A landfill operator told us their permit does not allow deceased animals.

As Vice-president Kamala Harris told us last week at the US Conference of Mayors in Reno, “Mayors get things done. As a mayor, people look to you as the ultimate problem solver. You are never off the clock.”

I took the vice-president’s admonition to heart. I made arrangements to have the whale buried in situ on the beach, since not a single other government agency or officials was willing to stop hand wringing and step up and deal with this unfortunate whale that was stinking up the neighborhood and the Bay Trail.

Today, a very good local contractor, W.R. Forde, brought in a tracked excavator and gave the creature a proper burial in about an hour.

Incidentally, but totally unrelated, I am a former US Army Corps of Engineers combat engineer Vietnam veteran. It was a long time ago, but that’s where I learned to just get things done.

Permits? If anyone asks, Kamala made me do it.