Redevelopment would boost economy and jobs, cut air pollution

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on Monday, April 13, 2009, at 8:30 a.m. will consider the final environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project. The proposed $750-million, 10-year project would modernize two older shipping terminals, create about 14,000 new permanent jobs and cut air pollution at those terminals by 50 percent or more from existing levels.

The Port staff is recommending that the Board also allocate at least $15 million to further offset environmental impacts in the local community. Under the proposal, the Port would fund $5 million or more on grants to schools, $5 million or more for health-care and seniors’ facilities, and $5 million or more on programs to reduce greenhouse gases.

The final environmental report was released, April 2. Previously, the draft report was circulated in May and June 2008 for 80 days of public review and comment. In the final, 1,500-page report, the Port responds to hundreds of comments and questions from the public collected during the review period.

The Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project proposes to modernize and reconfigure two older, irregularly shaped container shipping terminals to create one rectangular-shaped facility that would operate in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. In addition to the thousands of new permanent jobs, the project would also generate about 1,000 construction jobs a year during the 10 years of construction.

Updating the older terminals would enable the Port to fully implement the aggressive environmental measures in its Green Port Policy and Clean Air Action Plan, significantly cutting air pollution even as containerized trade increases. The project would expand Middle Harbor’s on-dock rail infrastructure significantly to move more cargo by rail directly from the waterfront.

“This project is needed to modernize aging Port infrastructure, keep Long Beach competitive in the business of international trade and create local jobs,” said Port Executive Director Richard D. Steinke.

With the extensive reductions in environmental impacts outlined in the EIR, the new shipping facilities would be among the “greenest” in operation at any global seaport, Steinke added.

“As proposed in this environmental report, the Middle Harbor project would create the most environmentally responsible shipping terminal anywhere in the world,” Steinke said. “It fulfills our responsibilities to the environment, economy and community, as it would provide many thousands of new jobs in Southern California while reducing air pollution.”

The project proposes to use new technologies and cleaner fuels to minimize or eliminate the environmental impacts of shipping operations. For example, all ships would be required to plug into shore-side electrical power and shut down their diesel engines at berth, and use low-sulfur fuels for their main and auxiliary engines as they travel in and out of port. Among other environmentally friendly measures, the project would require lower-emission switching locomotives, alternative-fuel powered cargo equipment, compliance with the Green Flag vessel speed reduction program, cleaner tugboats and barges, “green” building (LEED) standards for terminal buildings and the reuse or recycling of waste materials during construction.