ANTIOCH -- City leaders here are worried that their downtown ferry terminal aspirations may be left out at sea.
The latest plan from the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, or WETA, spells out $398.6 million in Bay Area ferry system improvements over the next decade, but just $751,200 for environmental studies for an Antioch terminal -- effectively ruling out development of the site until 2021, said Victor Carniglia, a city-hired consultant.
The water transportation authority will consider approving the plan, which is required by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, at its meeting Thursday.
The "business plan" represents what the agency needs to operate over the next 10 years, based on "what is known today," said Nina Rannells, WETA's executive director. The document is reviewed every four years, or earlier if circumstances change considerably, she said.
"It's our tool of communicating to MTC the status of our system, the projects we anticipate needing to implement to maintain and sustain our current system and carry out near-term planned expansion projects with identified operating sources," Rannells said.
Projects named in the plan include expanding the ferry's hub in downtown San Francisco, rehabilitating and replacing some vessels and adding new ferry terminals in Berkeley and Richmond.
Martinez and Hercules, the other Contra Costa cities seeking ferry service, would have only $751,400 and $340,100, respectively, devoted to environmental studies and design of their terminals.
The MTC, which is the Bay Area's transportation planning agency, largely controls how much money is spent and where, Rannells said.
In response to the plan, the Antioch City Council last week agreed to barrage WETA board members, its representatives on the transportation commission and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier with written letters, phone calls and face-to-face discussions to make its concerns loud and clear.
City representatives also say they will make the case at Thursday's meeting.
The WETA board is "somewhat insulated" because it is comprised of five appointed members who all come from communities around San Francisco Bay that have ferry service, City Manager Jim Jakel said.
"It's not a typical public board, so we have to be somewhat calculating in our approach, " he said.
Councilman Gary Agopian suggested that the city propose that WETA set aside 10 percent of its funds so that it can be flexible in its planning. In the meantime, the region should work at finding money to "make this leg viable," he said.
"We have a fighting chance to bring it up sooner that way," Agopian said.
At the request of Mayor Pro Tem Wade Harper, the council also agreed to discuss in closed session at a future meeting what legal options it has.
"We need to make sure we are not just giving lip service, but we are fighting for Antioch," Harper said. "This is our opportunity to bring economic development to the downtown area. Whatever we do, it needs to be stronger than a letter."
Other East Contra Costa cities are willing to assist Antioch in its efforts, said Sean Wright, chief executive officer of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce. Contra Costa's transportation agencies have been advocating on Antioch's behalf.
Councilwoman Mary Rocha suggested the city work to get the item heard by the MTC by talking to its representatives on the commission -- county Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg and Orinda councilwoman Amy Worth. Jakel warned Rocha that documents such as the WETA plan "barely make it to a consent calendar" at that level.
Several residents urged the council to lobby hard for the ferry, saying it will boost the city's economy.
"Antioch needs to make this truly regional transit a reality," said Kerry Motts, representing the Rivertown Preservation community group.
People from all over will come to Antioch for water access to the Bay Area, Motts said.
"This is truly a situation where if we build it, they will come."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
What: Water Emergency Transportation Authority board meeting
When: 1:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Authority's board room, Pier 9, Suite 11, San Francisco
More information: Call 415-291-3377 or go to www.watertransit.org.