Port of Long Beach dredging plan moves ahead

What’s good for navigation at the Port of Long Beach is good for the region and the nation is the conclusion of the Army Corps following its extensive environmental review and feasibility study of proposed improvements to the port’s waterways.

On July 6, Assistant Secretary of the Army Michael L. Connor issued a Record of Decision on the Port’s Deep Draft Navigation Feasibility Study and Channel Deepening Project to improve navigation, commerce and safety by deepening channels, basins and berths and widening key passages.

The ROD concludes the Army Corps’ work on the Final Integrated Feasibility Report with Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report and greenlights federal participation.

“I find the plan recommended by the Chief of Engineers to be technically feasible, economically justified, in accordance with environmental statutes, and in the public interest,” Connor wrote.

“This decision recognizes the national significance of our Port and allows us to move forward with a project that will yield enormous economic benefits for the country, the state and the greater Long Beach area,” said Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Sharon L. Weissman. “At the same time, it will improve the safety of Port operations and help lessen environmental impacts.”

The ROD confirms the Channel Deepening Project has passed the scrutiny of multiple federal environmental laws and cleared the federal government’s cost-effectiveness hurdle to show it is a worthy investment.

Key features of the Channel Deepening Project are:

  • 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 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 ROD is the key that unlocks the next steps, beginning with the port’s consideration of the project and certification of the EIR. The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is scheduled to hold a public hearing to consider certification of the document at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Subject to these approvals, the port and the Army Corps would proceed with design and engineering agreements, detailed planning and budgets, the bidding process and construction contracts, and funding. When the actual work of deepening and widening begins, it is expected to take about three years.

USACE is already slated to contribute $8 million to the project’s preconstruction, engineering and design work. Announced in early 2022, the funding became available thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in November 2021.

Photo: POLB