The proposed $4.8-billion expansion of Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, already assailed by residents at a recent public hearing, is now under criticism from San Pedro business leaders and a homeowners coalition.
In separate letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners Coalition have urged the corps to reevaluate the need for the project and provide assurances that it will not irreparably damage the environment.
"We are not opposing the plan, but we are raising some issues," Leron Gubler, executive director of the chamber, said in an interview.
Added Jerry Gaines, president of the homeowners coalition: "We are not saying, 'Don't do anything in San Pedro.' But we are questioning whether the project, as discussed, is environmentally sound."
The concerns have arisen as the Corps of Engineers finalizes its report on the so-called 2020 Project and determines whether it should recommend funding by Congress. As envisioned, the project would deepen the harbors by dredging and double the size of Terminal Island by adding 2,600 acres of landfill to accommodate 38 new terminals.
The corps has generally supported the project as a way of preparing for continued growth of cargo shipments at the ports. The proposed expansion has also been strongly backed by the shipping industry and area politicians, including Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.
But at an Oct. 9 hearing in San Pedro, many residents questioned the scope of the project and the undeniable impact it would have on surrounding communities.
"The chamber supports the concept of a 2020 Plan. We recognize the need for a comprehensive long-range plan to provide for the growth of the ports," chamber President Gary Larson wrote the Corps of Engineers on Nov. 27.
"However, there are various aspects of the plan that trouble us," Larson added, citing a chamber report that calls for more study of the 2020 Project's impact on air quality, traffic, recreational boating and commercial fishing.
In addition, the letter said, the Corps of Engineers and port officials should specifically examine the "socioeconomic impacts" of the project on San Pedro and Wilmington rather than focusing on its consequences for the region as a whole. Otherwise, the chamber said, the project's impact on local communities will be hard to determine.