The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a plan to do some major dredging work in the Bay to allow more cargo to move through the Port of Redwood City.
The $73 million project would deepen the Redwood City Harbor and San Bruno Shoal channels near San Francisco International Airport so ships can carry more cargo to the port.
The project is a partnership between the Corps of Engineers and port and will need final approval from Congress, said the port’s Executive Director Michael Giari.
“This is a major milestone for the port,” he said.
The corps approved the project after studying it for five years.
“Big ships now have to carry less payload. They could carry more cargo per trip if the channel is deepened,” Giari said Thursday.
A draft environmental impact report is being circulated now that the public can comment on until Aug. 24.
A public hearing on the “Redwood City Navigation Improvement Project” is set for Aug. 10.
The work will increase the depth of the channels from 30 feet to 32 feet. Work around Redwood City Harbor will slightly realign the channel to avoid sensitive environmental features of Bair and Greco islands.
The channel would be realigned about 6 feet to the east away from Bair Island.
Many ships that currently call on the port either have to wait for favorable tides or carry lighter loads to access it, Giari said Thursday.
The plan recommended by the Corps of Engineers calls for dredging 1.4 million cubic yards and dispose it 50 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean east of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The existing berths at the Port of Redwood City would also have to be deepened by 2 feet.
The federal government will pay for about 75 percent of the cost if Congress approves the project.
Dredging work could take up to three years to complete, Giari said.
The port is predicted to grow by 30 percent between 2005 and 2035 due to increased population driving up construction needs in the immediate area, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The port handled 1.4 million metric tons of dry bulk cargo in fiscal year 2012-13, according to Caltrans.
The port is owned by Redwood City and is self supporting. Approximately 75 percent of the port’s revenue is from marine activities and the remainder is from rent and commercial leases. About 10 percent of the port’s revenue is given to the city annually, according to Caltrans.
The port is predicted to grow substantially by 2035 due to increased population which will drive up construction needs in the immediate area, according to Caltrans.
“This is not a growth-inducing plan but rather a growth-accommodating plan,” Giari said.
Demand for construction materials and recycled metal is growing and a deeper channel will make moving the materials much more efficient, Giari said.
A deeper channel will help keep the cost of construction materials down, he said.
“Transporting the material is a significant part of the cost,” he said.
There are lots of steps ahead, however, before the project is even forwarded to Congress for approval, he said.
There is another $20 million in costs assigned to the project not covered by the federal government. Most of it will be assigned to private parties, such as up to $18 million to two companies to relocate pipelines now located in the Bay to deepen the San Bruno Shoals portion of the project.
The port is located at 675 Seaport Blvd. in Redwood City.
The draft EIR can be viewed at redwoodcityport.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102