West Coast
Ships sit inside the Port of Long Beach complex Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

CA - Port channel deepening project moves forward with federal, local approvals

Plans to deepen channels at the Port of Long Beach took another step forward on Monday. The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the final environmental impact report for a project that will see 7.4 million cubic yards of sediment relocated to help the nation’s second-busiest seaport operate more efficiently.

The vote came two months after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greenlit the plans.

Assistant Secretary of the Army Michael Connor issued a decision on the port’s Deep Draft Navigation Feasibility Study and Channel Deepening Project on July 6, writing that the plan is “technically feasible, economically justified, in accordance with environmental statutes, and in the public interest.”

The port’s executive director Mario Cordero also touted the project’s necessity.

“I certainly agree 100% that what’s before you has a significant national benefit,” Cordero said during Monday’s commission meeting.

Project details

The $170 million project will deepen various channels, basins and berths, as well as widen key passages within the port complex. Features of the project include:

  • Deepening the Long Beach Approach Channel from 76 feet to 80 feet along the passage through the breakwater at Queen’s Gate.
  • Easing turning bends in the Main Channel to deepen a wider area to 76 feet.
  • Deepening portions of the West Basin from 50 to 55 feet.
  • Constructing an approach channel and turning basin to Pier J South with a depth of 55 feet.
  • Deepening the Pier J Basin and the Pier J South Slip to 55 feet.
  • Improving the breakwaters at the entrance to the Pier J Basin to allow for the deepening of the basin and slip.
  • Depositing dredged material in either nearshore sites for reuse or federally approved ocean disposal sites.
  • Constructing a new electric substation to power dredging equipment used within Queen’s Gate.

The project cleared the federal government’s cost-effectiveness hurdle, according to port staff. The total cost of the project will be shared, with the port on the hook for $109 million and the remainder being federal funds, according to port spokesman Lee Peterson.

The project builds on previous dredging completed in 2014 that deepened most of the Main Channel to 76 feet. Planning for the new project began a year later, using funding left over from the 2014 effort, according to the port.

“Anticipating and preparing for the future is the hallmark of a world-class port,” Sean Gamette, the managing director of engineering services at the port, said in an August statement.

Environmental impacts vs. benefits

The Army Corps’ approval confirms the project is in line with multiple federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

But the project is expected to generate nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds at levels that exceed South Coast Air Quality Management District daily thresholds, according to a staff report.

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