Posted on September 22, 2016
Anne Kallas, Special to The Star 6:10 p.m. PDT September 20, 2016
The Port of Hueneme channel-deepening project has been put off for about a year, but an overall improvement project is still on track.
“I don’t care if the pieces move around and one thing is done before another, as long as the project is completed on time,” said Chief Operations Officer John Demers, adding that the berth-refurbishment and channel-deepening project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
Speaking before the Port Hueneme City Council, which received an update Monday on the Channel Islands Harbor dredging and effort to replenish sand on local beaches scheduled for late October or early November, Port CEO Kristin Decas said, “On the bright side, the sand will be coming mid-cycle, which is better for the beach.”
Demers explained that the port is technically undertaking two projects — one to deepen the “federal channel” and one to improve wharfs and berths.
The dredging of the federal channel, which is the portion of port waters beyond one ship’s width around the docks, is being funded by a cost-sharing grant and overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That $8 million project will deepen the port from 35 feet to 40 feet, bringing in more than 200,000 tons a year in additional cargo.
The original federal channel dredging was supposed to occur in late winter 2017 after the harbor dredging. This deepening has been delayed because needed environmental studies have not been completed.
“The corps got overwhelmed on their study and got a delay,” Demers said. “In Ventura County, you can’t put sand on the beach in summertime because of wildlife, specifically nesting birds like the snowy plover. When the project got delayed past the March finish date, the next available window is the following fall.”
But while the channel deepening is pending, work will continue on updating the port’s infrastructure. Demers said the main channel-deepening project will affect the entire water area except for about a ship’s width near the docks.
The dock and berth improvements are covered by $12.3 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant the port received in October 2015.
Among the projects proposed by the grant are reinforcing and strengthening the docks and deepening the berths.
Other plans, which were discussed and presented in the port’s 2020 strategic plan, include putting a small railroad spur back into service from the port to a junction near Perkins Road. Other projects from the grant include modernizing terminals, with an emphasis on solar panels to power increased refrigeration, lighting and climate control, and other sustainable-energy projects.
When completed, the port improvements are expected to create 563 local jobs, add $28 million a year in business revenue and provide $4.6 million more in tax revenues to local governments and the state, according to the Oxnard Harbor District, which oversees the port.
More than $8 billion in goods moved through the port in 2014, generating a total of $69 million in state and local tax revenues.
Source: Venture County Star