WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday distributed $445 million in infrastructure grants -- a 10% increase from last year -- to be used to strengthen the ability of ports, transit and intercity bus systems to protect against terrorist attacks.
California is receiving more than $30 million in port security funding for fiscal year 2007, almost doubling last year's $17-million grant.
"This represents a significant boost in funding for California's ports," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
"And it means that these ports will be better equipped to meet the real threats they face on a daily basis. Much more needs to be done, but this is a step in the right direction."
In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcomed the awards, calling them "needed security measures to make our ports the safest in the nation."
His office said the funds would be used for waterside surveillance system enhancements, command and control center system integration, and improvements in communication systems.
For the 2007 port security grants, the department divided the country's ports into regions and tiers based on risk.
Two California port areas were eligible for Tier I (highest-risk) funding: the Bay Area, awarded $14.23 million (up from $1.186 million last year), and Los Angeles and Long Beach, awarded $15.4 million (up from $12 million).
The New York/New Jersey region received $27.3 million for port security programs, the most awarded to any area. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) described the funding as "a welcome sign that DHS may now realize that the terrorists' No. 1 target should be No. 1 on the list for funding."
Another of the department's programs -- for counterterrorism funding decisions for high-risk areas -- caused a furor last year when major target areas like New York and Washington were cut and midsize cities like Jacksonville, Fla., and Sacramento won increases.
The head of the department's grants and training division resigned.
The anti-terrorism awards are to be announced later this year.
"These grants will help to protect our nation's critical infrastructure from threats and hazards that could cause major loss of life, economic impact and disruption of services," said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, who announced the grants. "These risk-based investments will increase security for vital assets such as ports, mass transit systems, long-distance bus carriers, chemical facilities and nuclear power plants."