LOS ANGELES – Standing on the fantail of the USS Iowa, dignitaries watched as a dredge lifted the final bucket of material from the water and emptied it into an adjacent barge, marking the end of a $370 million channel deepening project at the Port of Los Angeles April 3.
“This project is the latest mutual effort in a partnership that began in the late 19th Century, where the very first project undertaken by the newly-formed Los Angeles District was to construct the San Pedro breakwater (at the port),” Col. Mark Toy, Los Angeles District Commander, told guests at the ceremony aboard the decommissioned U.S. Navy battleship.
Since that beginning more than 100 years ago, the Port and the Corps have worked together on numerous projects to ensure safe navigation and the expansion of dock facilities that are necessary for the port to maintain its status as one of--if not the--most important maritime facilities in the nation.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“This project was important to us because we understand that in order to compete with ports in the United States and around the world, we’ve got to make investments,” Villaraigosa said. “And we’ve made $1.3 billion in investments and some 20,000 jobs to make sure we're competitive."
To remain competitive in the global shipping industry, the port invests billions of dollars in port and shipping infrastructure, the mayor said. The 10-year project removed 15 million cubic yards of material, enough to fill Dodgers Stadium twice over, and employed 880 people around the clock.
“The Port of LA is officially big-ship-ready,” Villaraigosa proclaimed.
“It’s important to note that when we say we've got to compete with (the Panama Canal), Panama will not be able to handle some of the ships of the size that we will with this dredging of the main channel, so we're excited and we're ready,” he said. “But don't think for a moment that this is the end of the line. We're going to continue to make the investments to stay competitive and to make sure that this Port remains the pre-eminent port complex in the United States.”
Throughout the project, the Corps, Port and other partners adapted to changes in personnel, laws, funding and other issues. The result is a state-of-the-art facility that not only meets the requirements of today, but maintains the Port’s ability to anticipate, plan and construct a facility to meet the needs of tomorrow, not only for the port, but for people in the area and throughout the nation.
“It’s not just about deeper waters, it’s really about reviving the economy in this region and our nation,” said Rep. Janice Hahn, an early champion of the project.
“The projects that we do require partnerships and alignment on all levels; we need people all working together to make it work,” said Toy. “In the District, we have a motto, ‘Building Strong and Taking Care of People.’ We use that motto, because we want people to know that every project we do, every permit we issue, has--at its heart--the idea that we are taking care of people.”
Dr. Geraldine Knatz, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, also spoke of the importance of deepening the channel.
“Size matters, and a port is defined by the depth of its channel,” Knatz said. “There are a lot of ports around the country trying to get to 45 or 50 feet, but this effort at 53 feet is a testament to our ongoing commitment to be the nation’s premier gateway to international trade.”
The project deepened the main channel from 45 feet to 53 feet and will improve the efficiency of operations and reduce the costs for transporting goods to and through the region. The contractor, Manson Construction Company of Long Beach, dredged about 12 million cubic yards of material, placing it at several sites within the harbor to support shallow water habitat and to expand piers and dock space.
“This isn't a project that belongs just to the City or just to the Corps--it belongs to the world, as it increases efficiency in the movement of goods around the globe,” said David Van Dorpe, the deputy district engineer for programs and project management for the Corps’ Los Angeles District. “Strong partnerships are key to the success of any project. From the City and the Port to our contractor, Mason, and our political officials, the deepening project was successful because of the commitment by all the partners to see it through.”
“Deepening the channels has not been an easy task,” Toy said. “Over the course of the project, people have come and gone. Funds have been appropriated, and sometimes not. Agencies have responded to changes in regulations and responsibilities. But through teamwork and effort, we have met the demand: to enable the Port of Los Angeles to continue to lead the maritime industry into the 21st Century and beyond.”
Toy told those attending the ribbon cutting ceremony that the number of jobs, the money that will flow into, through, and because of the port, and the volume of goods that will arrive and be distributed through the port are important numbers.
“But the true worth of the project we are dedicating today is the benefits it will provide for people. Directly or indirectly, locally or nationally, immediately or in the future, the work we recognize today will benefit the lives of many people,” Toy said.