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Navy, Port of Hueneme to Share Wharf

Deal will let the harbor district use the military dock for cargo ships in exchange for percentage of revenues, mostly in the form of services.

November 28, 2002|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

The Port of Hueneme struck a 30-year deal with the U.S. Navy on Wednesday for joint use of a Navy wharf that has the potential of increasing port revenues by one-third.

The deal, which adds a sixth berth to the only deep-water harbor between Los Angeles and San Francisco, was praised by port officials.

"I am very thankful," said William J. Buenger, Oxnard Harbor District executive director. "I'm going to eat double turkey."

In the works for eight years, the arrangement allows the harbor district to use the Navy's 1,000-foot Wharf 3 and 25 acres of adjacent land for 15 years in exchange for 39.5% of the revenue generated by commercial customers. The contract, approved this week by the Secretary of the Navy's office, allows three five-year extensions.

"It's one of those unique situations that you run across only so often that is a win for everyone around," said Rep. Elton Gallegly, who attended a no-frills contract-signing ceremony Wednesday morning in Port Hueneme. "It's even a win for L.A. Harbor," he said, since excess traffic could be diverted from San Pedro and Long Beach to the Port of Hueneme.

In 1994, the Simi Valley Republican included a provision in a military construction bill that authorized the Navy to begin negotiating with the harbor district to permit long-term commercial use of one of its infrequently used wharves next to the port's north terminal.

"It's a win for us, because we get some income out of it," said Cmdr. Doug Boothe, who is in charge of facilities and infrastructure at Naval Base Ventura County. "In peacetime, allowing a joint use allows us to get a little income from that wharf and for them to generate extra income for the harbor district."

Buenger estimates that the shared wharf will permit about 30 additional ships to call at Port Hueneme each year, adding $2 million to $2.5 million to port revenues, now at about $7.5 million.

The land behind the wharf contains several World War II-era wooden sheds and warehouses.

Final conditions for using Wharf 3 must still be worked out, Buenger said.

The harbor district had limited use of the Navy facility under a licensing agreement dating back to the early 1980s and had brought in up to 17 ships annually.

The docking of commercial ships was suspended after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, however, and that suspension is still in effect.

"The whole thing will hinge on how accessible it will be, considering the Navy's security," Buenger said. "This contract has not changed, at all, their security requirements.

"I'm not overly optimistic that the world situation and the Navy's security requirements are going to change overnight," he said. "I think we're going to be living with that for some years to come. But what we have is a lot better than what we had, and we're really happy about it."

The harbor district's earlier licensing agreement also allows it to temporarily operate at Navy wharves 4, 5 and 6 as needed when they are not in military use. The advantage of Wednesday's joint-use agreement is that the Navy will be compensated primarily in maintenance, repair and construction services rather than cash payments, of which only 50% goes to the local base, according to Boothe.

Gallegly said that keeping 100% of the benefit from the collaboration inside Ventura County is especially important.

"Rather than the money just going to the Navy, it is earmarked for Port Hueneme operations," he said. "It doesn't go to Washington, D.C., but stays at the base for local infrastructure improvements and operations."

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