Port of Oakland, California, completes 50-foot-deepening project, allowing it to accommodate larger container ships
September 21, 2009
Friday afternoon at the Port’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Port of Oakland officials along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the California State Coastal Conservancy announced and celebrated the substantial completion of the -50 Foot Oakland Harbor Deepening Project, a major milestone in the Port’s history and a significant achievement setting the stage for a more prosperous Bay Area economy. President of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners Victor K. Uno stated, “A deep water harbor is absolutely vital to the well-being of our region. The minus 50 Foot Project delivers critical benefits to our community, the state and nation. These include generating thousands of jobs, business activity, millions in tax revenues, and environmental benefits.”
US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) South Pacific Division Commander Colonel “Rock” Donahue, Assistant Secretary to the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, President of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners Victor K. Uno, Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar R. Benjamin, and California State Coastal Conservancy Deputy Executive Officer Nadine Hitchcock addressed the audience of approximately 150 guests representing USACE, Port and Coastal Conservancy officials and staff; numerous stakeholders; and many organizations that helped bring this multi-year project to completion.
This 12-year project is significant because the deeper harbor allows the larger container ships to access the Port 24/7. “As we all know, Oakland is one of the most culturally rich and economically diverse communities in the nation and much of this economic diversity can be attributed to its location as a major transit hub on the San Francisco Bay," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. "A deeper harbor means that our port, the fifth busiest container port in the nation, will remain an essential and accessible international gateway for shippers.” The Oakland Harbor Navigation Improvement Project is the technical name of the project that was authorized under the 1999 Federal Water Resources Development Act. When the project was designed, the benefit-to-cost ratio was one of the highest in the country at 11-1. That means for every dollar spent on this project it is estimated that it will generate $11 in benefits.
Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar R. Benjamin explained, “50 FEET DELIVERED is a critical link between today and tomorrow. When you combine the deeper harbor with improving rail service through the Port of Oakland and future development of our portion of the former Oakland Army Base, it allows for attracting new investments, strategic partnerships and strengthening our position as a global gateway. And that is beneficial for all of our tenants and customers, our community and our country.”
USACE South Pacific Division Commander Colonel “Rock” Donahue stated, “The entire 12-year project is a $432 million investment, with $244 million federally funded by the Army Corps of Engineers and $188 million locally funded by the Port of Oakland. The American people can rest assured that their money was well-spent and their projects are completed on schedule.” Colonel Donahue added, “And I want to thank our excellent contractors. They did the heavy lifting, and I mean that in more than one sense. Our first construction contract went to DDM Crane which, we’re pleased to say, is a woman-owned business. The majority of our construction was done by the Dutra Group, Manson Construction, and Great Lakes Dredging and Drydock. All four of these companies did an outstanding job.”
The cost of the project is a shared cost between the federal government and the Port of Oakland. The total funding for the project goes to the USACE which is the federal agency responsible for the construction of the Port of Oakland’s Harbor Deepening Project. “Bucket by bucket – America invested 12 years and $432 million to bring this project to fruition,” Assistant Secretary to the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy said as she addressed the crowd and other officials. “This project brings an estimated 8,800 jobs, boosts business revenues by approximately $2 billion and generates an estimated $62 million in local taxes…I can imagine no more important contribution to our country’s future than the vision, oversight, and due diligence you have brought to this vital navigation channel.” The planning began about 12 years ago; the first dredging started in September of 2001; and September 2009 marks the substantial completion of deepening of the Oakland harbor – about an eight year engineering endeavor.
Port Board President Uno expressed his appreciation for Congresswoman Lee’s support, “We are grateful to Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her determined and consistent leadership on this issue year-after-year. Congresswoman Lee has persistently fought for critical funding.” Uno added, “The Port Board of Commissioners also extends sincere thanks to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer…they were stanch advocates of this project and contributed their invaluable support, which has resulted in this remarkable achievement we are all celebrating today.”
Uno also recognized the Bay Area and Central Valley delegations for their tireless efforts in support of deepening the Oakland harbor and extended thanks to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums for being a long-time eloquent and fervent supporter of deepening the Oakland harbor. Port officials thanked the USACE and the CA Coastal Conservancy for partnering with the Port on this project. They also acknowledged the tremendous amount of cooperation and support they received from a multitude of stakeholders: maritime tenants, customers, and business partners; rail, trucking and agricultural partners; environmental organizations; other public agencies; the labor community; the chambers, faith-based and other community groups; city and county governments; local and state public agencies; business and transportation organizations and companies; and educational and civic organizations.
The –50 Foot Project supports deep draft navigation improvements at the Port of Oakland. Project components included widening and deepening of the Harbor Entrance, Outer and Inner Harbor channels, and two turning basins to –50 feet Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) as well as local business and utility relocations. The Port of Oakland is also investing in deepening its berths and strengthening its wharves as a complimentary project.
Recent trends in the shipping industry have shown a continuous shift toward larger and wider container ships, making it essential for the Port of Oakland to be able to accommodate these new classes of ships or risk losing viability. To this end, the Port has partnered with the Corps of Engineers on the channel deepening venture.
Deepening of the Oakland Harbor involved dredging some 12.8 million cubic yards of material. Nearly 100% of the dredged material has been used for wetlands restoration, habitat enhancement, and upland construction projects in and around San Francisco Bay.
One of the first areas to realize the benefits of this project is the shallow water habitat created at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park where today’s event was held. Approximately 6 million cubic yards of material was used to restore about 188 acres of shallow water habitat. The Middle Harbor Enhancement Area is providing habitat for the endangered California least tern, the California Brown pelican, Pacific herring, and fish production.
Port Executive Director Benjamin summed up the day’s event, “Today we are celebrating a simple concept: a harbor, 50 feet deep! But it was not a simple task getting here. It required significant funding, extensive coordination and engineering, and support from all of you, and together we succeeded!
About the Port of Oakland
The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland seaport, Oakland International Airport and 20 miles of waterfront. The Oakland seaport is the fifth busiest container port in the U.S.; Oakland International Airport offers 150 daily nonstop flights to 35 destinations; and the Port’s real estate includes commercial developments such as Jack London Square and hundreds of acres of public parks and conservation areas. The Port of Oakland was established in 1927 and is an independent department of the City of Oakland. Please visit:www.portofoakland.com.