President of the United State, Joe Biden signed into law the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, the biennial legislation authorising federal flood control, navigation and ecosystem improvements that include the Port of Long Beach Channel Deepening Project.
“We are grateful to members of the House and Senate and the Army Corps of Engineers who championed this bill, the many lawmakers from both parties who voted for it and President Biden,” said board of harbor commissioners president, Sharon L. Weissman, adding that the federal support shows how important international trade through the Port of Long Beach is to the national economy.
The Californian port’s Channel Deepening Project, which was signed on 23 December, is one of only five navigation projects nationwide that met the goals of the Corps’ planning process to make the cut for construction authorisation under the new water resources law.
According to the Port of Long Beach, this project has been in the works for more than eight years and is an essential component of the Port’s Master Plan.
Key elements include deepening the Long Beach Approach Channel from 23 to 24 meters, easing turning bends in the Main Channel to deepen a wider area to 23 feet, deepening parts of the West Basin from 15 to 16 feet, constructing an approach channel and turning basin to Pier J South with a depth of 16 feet, improving the breakwaters at the entrance to Pier J, and depositing dredged material in nearshore sites for reuse or in federally approved ocean disposal sites.
The port noted that the project’s operational benefits include more room for the largest tankers and container vessels to transit the harbor and fewer delays related to tidal flows.
Deeper, wider channels also reduce the need for large vessels to transfer liquid bulk cargo or containers to smaller vessels before entering the harbor. The process, known as lightering, ensures large ships have the underkeel clearance they need to move through the harbor as it is currently configured.
Furthermore, environmental benefits include lower fuel consumption because ships will be able to maneuver more efficiently through the harbor. Burning less fuel reduces vessel pollution – emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides.
The port is sharing the cost of the US$200 million project with the Corps, whose responsibilities include building and maintaining the nation’s waterways. Setting the stage for congressional authorisation, the Corps issued a record of decision in July 2022 endorsing the project based on multiyear environmental and cost-benefit studies of the project.
Additionally, the Corps concluded deepening and widening channels in the harbor would lead to improved vessel navigation, safety, and national economic benefits valued at more than US$15 million annually. In September, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners certified the project’s companion environmental impact report.
Construction is projected to start in 2027 and is expected to take approximately three years.