The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed the 10-year, $370 million deepening of the Port of Los Angeles' main navigation channel and turning basins, enabling the nation's largest container port to receive a new generation of super-size vessels now being deployed.
Deepening the main channel from 45 feet to 53 feet "has been our single-most important infrastructure project," Port Director Geraldine Knatz said in a statement.
Under federal cost-sharing guidelines, the port authority and other local sponsors had to foot 60 percent of the bill.
The dredging project complements the Port of Los Angeles' five-year $1.3 billion Capital Improvement Program to modernize and upgrade terminals, increase rail capacity and improve roadways.
Together the investments are intended, along with similar work at the adjacent Port of Long Beach, to maintain Southern California as the nation's main gateway for containerized trade and support job growth at a time of increased competition from ports in Mexico, Canada and on the East Coast. The expansion of the Panama Canal will enable larger vessels to reach the East Coast from Asia and local officials have used the potential threat of lost cargo to galvanize support for infrastructure projects in and around the port, such as the near-dock rail yard that BNSF Railway has proposed to reduce the distance trucks have to travel between an existing downtown yard and the ports.
The Port of Los Angeles' container terminals support more than 43,000 jobs at the port and around the region, according to the port authority.
The dredging project resulted in the relocation of 15 million cubic yards of dredge material to various sites throughout the port, including a 1-4-acre shallow water habitat and feeding area for fish and marine birds in the outer harbor. - Eric Kulisch