Port of Oakland to receive nearly $50M

An omnibus appropriations bill signed by President Bush this week includes nearly $50 million for the Port of Oakland’s harbor-deepening project and harbor maintenance.

The money goes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the federal agency responsible for the construction of the harbor-deepening project.

The bill includes$41.3 million for harbor deepening and a little more than $8.2 million for annual dredging operations and maintenance.

In a statement, Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin said, “We are very grateful to Congresswoman Barbara Lee [D-Oakland] and Senator Dianne Feinstein as well as the entire Bay Area delegation for their leadership in advocating for these critical funds.”

Benjamin said, “These funds will help ensure the deepening of the Oakland harbor to minus 50 feet, which means that we will be able to accommodate the newer, larger container ships that now transit the globe.”

He added, “This funding is vital to our ability to deliver important benefits to our citizens including continuing the Port of Oakland’s role as an economic engine for our region, the state and the nation.”

Port officials say the minus 50-foot project supports deep draft navigation improvements at the Port of Oakland.

Project components have included the widening and deepening of the harbor entrance, outer and inner harbor channels, and two turning basins as well as relocating local businesses and utilities.

Related local service facilities, paid entirely by the Port, include berth deepening and wharf strengthening.

Port of Oakland Maritime Director James Kwon said, “With the Port of Oakland’s already-completed maritime infrastructure improvements combined with the Oakland harbor deepening project and plans for new rail access at the Port, we will be able to grow our cargo business.”

Port officials say the cost-benefit ratio for the deepening project is 11 to 1.

They say that in addition to economic benefits, there are significant environmental benefits, including wetland and habitat restoration.

The project was authorized under the 1999 Federal Water Resources Development Act, with the federal government and the Port sharing approximately half the cost.

Anthony Batarse, president of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners, said, “We thank our congressional leaders for their successful efforts to get this funding approved. We also applaud our labor, environmental, agricultural, community and business partners for their help in securing funding to deepen the Oakland harbor.”

Batarse said the harbor-deepening project is critical for Port of Oakland business partners located in California, across the U.S. and overseas because they depend on the Port of Oakland for their import and export needs.

Oakland’s seaport is the fourth busiest container port in the U.S.

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