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Port of Long Beach to update master plan to include environmental goals and more

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A Cosco cargo ship unloads in the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach Monday, October 11, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The Port of Long Beach is giving its master plan, a document that guides all decision-making, a comprehensive update for the first time since 1990, with a public information meeting slated for Feb. 10.

The existing master plan identifies permitted uses for the nearly 2,700 acres of land and 4,500 acres of water at the nation’s second busiest port complex. Port master plans are required by the California Coastal Act of 1976.

Since the last comprehensive update over three decades ago, the port and the shipping industry have undergone significant changes in operations and goals.

“Our container cargo has grown an astounding 480% since the last comprehensive overhaul, and it was before we became an industry leader in reducing emissions associated with goods movement with the green port policy,” Executive Director Mario Cordero said in an email.

Last year, the port moved a record 9,384,368 20-foot equivalents (the standard measure of a shipping container), a 230% increase from 1995 when the port handled 2,843501 TEUs. Cargo volumes would have been even lower in 1990, with throughput steadily rising each year with few exceptions, according to port data.

In 2006, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles jointly approved the Clean Air Action Plan, a first-of-its-kind plan to dramatically reduce emissions from port operations. The ultimate goals would see the port cutting emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 through, chiefly through electrification.

Many of the proposed updates to the master plan are revised goals and language to bring the document in line with the CAAP and the transition to zero emissions. The 238-page draft also includes updates to capital improvement projects, policy language, and planning and development goals, in large part related to sea-level rise and climate change adaptation.

One of the most notable changes to the master plan is the addition of a new section: Environmental Justice and Tribal Resources Element. The section focuses on “advancing the principles of environmental justice, equality and protection of tribal resources.”

“The planning goals for this element include promoting equitable access to clean, healthy, and accessible coastal environments through various methods including, but not limited to, pursuing zero-emissions technologies for Port-related operations; considering environmental justice in all Harbor Development Permits; engaging regularly and consistently with the local communities, environmental justice leaders, and groups surrounding the Harbor District; utilizing best practices to maximize the effectiveness of public engagement; considering recommendations from disadvantaged communities impacted by Port operations,” the document reads, “and coordinating with local Native American tribes to obtain a better understanding of local and regional cultural resources within the Harbor District and protecting such resources.”

As a public agency, the port is required to address environmental justice due to additions to the California Coastal Act made in 2016. Key tenants of environmental justice, according to the CCA, are the availability of a healthy environment for all people; the deterrence, reduction and elimination of pollution within communities most impacted by said pollution; the inclusion of impacted communities in relevant decision making; and the consideration of recommendations made by impacted communities.

In December 2018, the California State Lands Commission adopted an environmental justice policy, followed by the California Coastal Commission in 2019.

In Long Beach, the 710 Freeway has been known by local public health advocates as the “diesel death corridor” for years. Residents who live in areas around the freeway in West and North Long Beach—particularly  in the neighborhoods nearest the port—face some of the worst air pollution in the country, which has led to increased cases of asthma and cancer.

“The port master plan update will create an operationally and environmentally sustainable port land use plan,” Cordero said. “Obviously a lot has changed, and this process will allow us to incorporate previous amendments, reflect changes in the shipping industry, strategically manage resources and help us to remain competitive in the rapidly changing global economy.”

A previous draft was released in summer 2019 for public review. Feedback received by the port has been considered in the latest draft.

Public comment on the port’s updated master plan will be accepted through March 14. Comments came be submitted by emailing [email protected] or in writing to Theresa Dau-Ngo, 415 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802.

The virtual public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10. Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog translation will be available upon request, which must be submitted by Feb. 7 to [email protected]

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