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Ports Cheer Bill Promising Major Growth of Harbor

October 26, 1986|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

Officials from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are optimistic that President Reagan will sign a water projects bill that includes crucial authorization for the first phase of a proposed $4-billion expansion of the ports.

The legislation, approved by Congress before it adjourned last weekend, authorizes the deepening of channels in both ports and creation of an 800-acre landfill island in San Pedro Bay. The $630-million project, half of which the ports hope the federal government will finance, is the first of a proposed three-phase development plan that would provide 2,600 additional acres of cargo-handling facilities for both ports by 2020. The ports currently encompass about 4,800 acres of land.

"It is an absolutely critical step for us," said Ezunial Burts, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. "It is very, very exciting news for the ports of San Pedro Bay."

Added Charles Connors, deputy executive director of the Port of Long Beach: "It is the first step toward getting the federal government to contribute its share of the costs of the expansion. It is a crucial authorization."

Landslide Study Included

The bill, which includes several hundred projects, also authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study landslide areas in Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills to determine what can be done to stop shoreline erosion at the foot of the Portuguese Bend slide and to stabilize the Flying Triangle slide. Officials from the two cities have been seeking federal assistance in controlling the slides.

"You really can't get anything done through the federal government without this authorization," said Terrance L. Bellanger, Rolling Hills city manager. "This will benefit the entire south Peninsula, which includes some county areas as well as Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills."

The legislation, expected to be sent to the President this week, is the first major authorization of new water projects in 16 years. Los Angeles and Long Beach port officials have been working since 1982 to get their project included in the legislation, port officials said.

Port officials and congressional negotiators involved in putting together the legislation said they expect Reagan to sign it because of cost-sharing provisions from the Senate version of the bill that were inserted in the final bill by Senate and House conferees. Reagan had threatened to veto the House version because, unlike the Senate version, it did not force local interests to pay enough of the cost of the projects authorized by the legislation.

Rep. Anderson's Role

"We have been told that the President will sign the bill," said Jim Barich, a legislative assistant to Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D-Harbor City), who helped negotiate the final version of the bill and who, port officials said, was instrumental in getting their project included. "The cost-sharing arrangements have been all worked out."

While the authorization does not include financing for the landslides study or the ports project, it does call on the federal government to pay for half of the $620-million ports project when it is financed. Actual federal financing for the projects must be provided in separate future spending bills. The ports say they can pay for their half of the tab.

Before the two ports can apply for federal funding, the Army Corps of Engineers must complete a feasibility study to determine whether dredging the harbor and creating a landfill island would be in the best interests of the federal government. Vern Hall, who has been overseeing the expansion project for the Port of Los Angeles, said the study should be completed in two years.

Several other studies are being conducted by the two ports in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, and numerous permits, environmental approvals and licenses must be obtained before the proposed expansion can begin, port officials said. Geraldine Knatz, director of planning for the Port of Long Beach, said dredging could begin as early as 1989 if everything goes according to plan.

Jobs and Tax Revenue

Officials from both ports said they expect the Army Corps of Engineers to endorse the expansion plan because of the jobs and economic growth it is expected to bring to Southern California and the taxes it will mean for the federal treasury.

Last year, the local U.S. Customs District collected more than $2 billion in customs receipts, and when the three-phase expansion is completed in 2020, port officials project the district will collect $6 billion in receipts annually. Without any expansion, port officials estimate customs receipts will peak at $2.2 billion.

Port officials said channels in both harbors need to be deepened to accommodate large oil tankers and other ships that cannot enter the ports because they are too shallow. The dredged material would be used to create the landfill island, which would house cargo terminals and storage tanks for oil and hazardous chemicals. The island would be contiguous to a 106-acre landfill island that Pacific Texas Pipeline Co., a Long Beach-based company, wants to build in the outer harbor as the berthing facility for a $1.66-billion crude oil pipeline from Los Angeles to Midland, Tex.

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