“The total number of loaded containers, import containers and empty containers were all down – by 6.7 percent, 15.3 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively.”

Alameda Corridor Numbers Plummet; Diversion Likely Cause
The Cunningham Report
08/31/2008

 

The number of trains running along the Alameda Corridor and the number of containers those trains carried were down by double-digit percentages during the first six months of 2008, according to new figures from the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.
The numbers speak for themselves:

  • There were 8,033 trains that traveled along the 20-mile cargo expressway the first six months of the year, a decrease of 11.6 percent from the 9,091 during January to June 2007.
  • The number of containers declined 11.2 percent to 1.46 million this year from 1.65 million in the first half of last year.
  • The total number of loaded containers, import containers and empty containers were all down – by 6.7 percent, 15.3 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively.
  • The only increase for the six-month period came in the number of exports through the corridor, which were up 12.9 percent.

“What this does indicate is that there has been a fall-off in terms of the number of trains that are carrying cargo, which represents a loss in discretionary cargo to these ports in the first six months of this year,” ACTA CEO John Doherty told the Long Beach Harbor Commission last week. “Typically we trend exactly as the ports (of Long Beach and Los Angeles) do – if the ports are off three percent a year, the Alameda Corridor is off three percent a year. But the ports are now off 7.7 percent combined … and the Alameda Corridor is off 11 percent. So this is a little indicator that we’re losing discretionary cargo,” he said.

It’s an important indicator.

Everybody knows that shippers have to use the Southern California ports for the cargo destined for Southern California. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports would have to become outrageously expensive before it would make sense to ship cargo through Oakland or Mexico and truck it to Southern California. But the discretionary cargo – goods headed across the Continental Divide to the American heartland – can be easily diverted to other ports.

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“The port had planned to lease empty space at Berths 33 and 34 for container traffic but the sluggish market has forced the port to shop for more diverse tenants.”

Oakland May Use Container Space To Store Aggregate
The Cunningham Report
08/31/2008

 

The economic downturn and sluggish container shipping business has compelled the Port of Oakland to consider leasing vacant wharf space and marine facilities in the Port’s outer harbor to store construction aggregate.

The port’s Maritime Committee Thursday voted to ask the Port Board to authorize Executive Director Omar Benjamin to enter into a negotiating agreement with Teichart Materials of Sacramento to lease 12.5 acres in Berth 33. The agreement would give Teichart six months beginning in November to conduct due diligence and prepare an operating plan for a five to ten-year lease for an estimated $13.8 million.

Teichart is considering leasing the berth space for handling bulk construction materials, including crushed rock and sand. The site is currently being used for the TraPac Terminal construction project and won’t be available for another 18 months.

The port had planned to lease empty space at Berths 33 and 34 for container traffic but the sluggish market has force the port to shop for more diverse tenants. The Port’s long-term plan is to restrict the outer harbor area for containers.

Commissioner Margaret Gordon argued that Oakland should follow the Port of San Francisco example and conduct “smart planning” for cluster areas of similar industries, such as asphalt, cement, and recycling operations.

“The whole idea of creating a relief point in Mexico was based on LA/Long Beach being maxed out. That’s not going to happen now.”

Ocean cargo: Proposed Mexican seaport gets new attention
Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor — Logistics Management, 9/2/2008

LOS ANGELES—Shippers tired of congestion and slow downs at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were given some promising news last week about an alternative gateway on the Pacific Rim.

 “The Punta Colonet container ship project will transform and revolutionize the productivity of the country,” said Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon last week. He added that plans for the seaport 150 miles south of Ensenada in Baja Mexico would be significant rival to its North American rivals.

 With bidding now open for a 45-year concession to operate the port and rail line to the U.S. border, Mexico plans to have Punta Colonet ready for business by 2012.

 Some industry analysts are skeptical, however.

 “We understand that some of the initial bidders have already pulled out,” said Dr. John Martin, president of Martin Associates, an economic consulting firm specializing in international trade. “And there’s reason to believe that the project is not as attractive to some investors as it might have been a couple of years ago.”

 According to Martin, ocean carrier redeployments to an “all-water” service linking Asia to the EU via the Suez Canal has meant less volume for the U.S. West Coast recently.

 “This means more cargo is sourced through U.S. East Coast ports,” he said, “and we see this trend continuing. The whole idea of creating a relief point in Mexico was based on LA/Long Beach being maxed out. That’s not going to happen now.”

 Industry analysts have also noted that the Canadian port of Prince Rupert is not attracting the massive shipments projected before it enlarged its operations a few years ago.

 “The West Coast longshore labor situation has stabilized, too,” noted Martin, “and shippers are not so worried about a long-term shutdown here again.

“Incoming goods are down so much that the twin ports are on pace to record their second straight year of declines in overall international trade.”

Exports jump at L.A., Long Beach ports but imports falter
By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 
September 2, 2008

Forget scrap paper, plastics, scrap metal and the bounty of agricultural harvests. Until this year, the biggest U.S. contribution to the international supply chain were vast mountains of empty cargo containers outbound on ships to China, where they were quickly refilled with the imports on which American consumers have come to depend.

“For the longest time, we used to joke that our biggest export was our fine California air,” said Eric Caris, assistant director of marketing for the Port of Los Angeles. “The good news for us in 2008 is that we are finally exporting more loaded containers than empties.”

From January to July, exports jumped about 23% compared with the same period of 2007 at the nation’s two busiest container ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. But the export boom overshadows a deep pullback in U.S. consumer spending.

Imports are down so much that the twin ports are on pace to record their second straight year of declines in overall international trade. That hasn’t happened in at least 30 years, despite a handful of national recessions along the way.

The slowdown has hit almost every harbor in North America.

Of the 10 busiest seaports that are tracked every month by the nation’s largest retailers for signs of congestion, only two are doing more business than last year. One is Vancouver, Canada, which is serving an economy much healthier than that of the U.S. The other is Savannah, Ga., which is winning market share as the first big East Coast stop for cargo headed north from the Panama Canal.

Weakness in the U.S. economy is mirrored on the docks, said Paul Bingham, managing director of trade and transportation markets for the Washington-based forecasting firm Global Insight.

“You can find all of the economic symptoms of the downturn in these numbers,” Bingham said. “Unfortunately, this is a bad-news story. We haven’t even found the bottom yet.”

Bingham and other economists even can glean from the port statistics the effect of the Bush administration’s economic stimulus checks, which was minor. Many observers hoped for a turnaround in the second half of 2008, but now they don’t see one happening before the second quarter of 2009.

At the five top West Coast ports — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. — imports were down by as much as 13% through the first seven months of the year.

Chamber of Commerce to host coastal panel

The Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce will welcome members of the California Coastal Commission following the chamber’s Sept. 10 meeting in Eureka. A reception for the members of the commission has been scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be held at Eureka’s Avalon Restaurant and Bar.

Hors d’oeuvres will be prepared by Avalon’s staff, and an oyster barbecue will be grilled by Greg Dale of Coast Seafoods. The attire for the evening is business casual and the cost per person is $20 for chamber members and $30 for non-members.

The purpose of the reception is to welcome the commissioners and staff in order to give them an opportunity to meet with local community leaders. It is an opportunity to help the members of this commission become better acquainted with issues affecting the North Coast area.

Reservations are recommended, as attendance will be limited. Payment must be received by Sept. 5. For more information or to make reservations, phone the Eureka Chamber of Commerce office at 707-442-3738.

“Overnight, home values of 100,000 homeowners along the EJ&E will plummet”

Opponents of EJ & E sale march to Wednesday meeting
By Robert Channick
Special to the Chicago Tribune
9:25 PM CDT, August 27, 2008

Area residents turned out by the hundreds Wednesday in Barrington to voice opposition to the proposed purchase of a suburban railroad line.

More than 500 people—many carrying protest signs—marched to Barrington High School, where a public meeting on Canadian National Railway Co.’s proposed purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway was held later in the day.

The marchers—many chanting, “Stop the trains”—tied up traffic.

“If we create enough of a traffic jam it will give people just a little taste of what’s ahead if CN gets approval,” said Linda Reinhard, who organized the march.

The march gathered participants as it proceeded for more than a mile along Lake Cook Road to the high school.

The public meeting was one in a series being held throughout the Chicago area to discuss the U.S. Surface Transportation Board’s draft environmental impact report on the proposed sale.

More than 1,000 people crowded into the school’s gymnasium, where a visibly upset Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) told representatives of the federal board that the draft report underestimated the number of affected rail crossings that could be blocked.

“It gives new meaning to the word ‘railroad,’ ” he said.

Another critic, Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), said as many as 40 suburban communities would be impacted. It would be unfair, she said, for U.S. taxpayers to pay for rail improvements that would financially benefit shareholders of the Montreal-based company.

Jeff Mangano of Lake Zurich, one of about 80 people who signed up to speak, said he worried about falling property values if the purchase were approved.

“Overnight, home values of 100,000 homeowners along the EJ&E will plummet,” he said.

Read the rest of the article >

“And what we found was a surprise, because no one expected that the contribution from ships of solid sulfur-rich particles called primary sulfate would be so high.”

Dirty Smoke from Ships Found to Degrade Air Quality in Coastal Cities
University of California, San Diego
August 18, 2008
By Kim McDonald

 

Ah, nothing like breathing clean coastal air, right? Think again.

Chemists at UC San Diego have measured for the first time the impact that dirty smoke from ships cruising at sea and generating electricity in port can have on the air quality of coastal cities.

The scientists report in this week’s early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the impact of dirty smoke from ships burning high-sulfur fuel can be substantial, on some days accounting for nearly one-half of the fine, sulfur-rich particulate matter in the air known to be hazardous to human health.

Their results have particular significance for the state of California, which will require, beginning next July, that all tankers, cargo and cruise ships sailing into a California port switch to more expensive, cleaner-burning fuels when they come within 24 miles of the coast. Similar international rules requiring clean-burning ship fuels are set to take effect in 2015.

While those regulations are intended to minimize the potential hazards dirty ship smoke may pose to human health and the environment—which some researchers have estimated may be responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths worldwide and a cost to the U.S. economy of $500 million a year—no one knows the actual impact of ship smoke. The reason is that air quality experts have been unable to quantify the specific contribution of ship smoke to the air pollution of coastal cities—until now.

 

Read the rest of the article >

“Shipping pollution is basically one of the last regulated or lightly regulated frontiers”

Ship Pollution Dirties New England Air
May 9, 2008

BOSTON (WBZ) ― The air quality near ocean waters isn’t nearly as healthy as New Englanders might think.

In fact, it can be downright harmful, which raises concerns about ship pollution. 

Some exercise and an ocean breeze is a daily ritual for Bob Pasquale and Chris Koskella. 

Their favorite spot is Castle Island where they see and feel the impact of the ships heading in and out of Boston Harbor. 

“I can feel it in my breathing,” said Chris Koskella. “Some days when you come down in the area, my eyes water, and I sneeze.” 

The shipping industry is booming. It’s up 10 percent in Boston Harbor this year, which is good news for the economy, but is bad news for the air quality. 

“Shipping pollution is basically one of the last regulated or lightly regulated frontiers,” said David Marshall with Clean Air Task Force. “There are about 50,000 ocean-going ships around the world.” 

Ships can weigh thousands of tons, and that takes a lot of power to move them across the waters. 

These ships have extremely large diesel engines, some of which are the size of a municipal power plant. They also burn some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

An important message from David Gurney
David Gurney spoke at last week’s HBHRCD meeting

It is apparent that Humboldt Bay is about to be blindsided by oil and gas development.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has staked claim to a 136 sq. mi. area of ocean right outside the mouth of the Humboldt Bay. They also have permits for 68 square miles off the Mendocino Coast, and are apparently in negotiation with the Minerals Management Service to lease even more large tracts of ocean, just outside of these huge areas. These tracts correspond to offshore oil drilling zones, that were under negotiation for Oil and Gas Lease/Sale # 91 back in 1988.

PG&E does not need such huge areas of ocean to test wave energy devices, and instead has the potential to “site sit” these locations, until such a time that the leases can be converted to natural gas and oil drilling permits. It says so in their permit documents.

Also documented is the fact that P.G.& E. has approached as two companies as consultants on their wave energy projects : Black & Veatch and CH2M Hill. Both are world-wide conglomerates engaged in natural gas and oil development.

Furthermore, Goldman Sachs has offered to lease and develop the marine terminal of Humboldt Bay, supposedly for the benefit of commerce and tourism. But Goldman Sachs is heavily involved in speculation on oil futures, and is in fact one of the major players in such speculation, and thus could have a serious conflict of interest in what is best for the Bay and the citizens of Eureka.

I believe that Goldman Sachs, along with PG&E and their consultants have the potential to turn Humboldt Bay into a scene similar to Martinez in the East Bay, with refineries, natural gas processing facilities, cogeneration plants and storage tanks, not to mention tanker traffic. Read the rest of this entry »

And why should we believe we will ever have one?

San Diego Green Port Program

A Green Port Program was developed by the Port of San Diego to support the goals of the Environmental Sustainability Policy that was approved by the Board of Port Commissioners in 2007. The ultimate goal of the program is to achieve long-term environmental, societal and economic benefits through resource conservation, waste reduction and pollution prevention.

 The Green Port Program unifies the Port’s environmental sustainability goals in six key areas. Overseen by the Green Port Program Steering Committee, the Port sets measurable goals and evaluates progress in each area on an annual basis. The Green Port Program both continues the Port’s existing environmental efforts and expands these efforts through new programs and initiatives.

 

Water: Improve water quality in San Diego Bay. Reduce the Port’s water usage to preserve San Diego’s water supply.

Energy: Conserve energy and maximize energy efficiency of Port operations.

Air: Reduce greenhouse gas contributions and other air emissions from Port operations.

Waste Management: Reduce waste from Port operations through material reuse, recycling and composting.

Sustainable Business Practices: Give equal weight to environmental, economic and social concerns in the decision-making process.

Sustainable Development: Enhance the environmental performance of Port buildings while maximizing long-term economic benefits.

 

Long Beach Green Port Policy

The Green Port Policy is an aggressive, comprehensive and coordinated approach to reduce the negative impacts of Port operations. The Green Port Policy, which the Board adopted in January 2005, serves as a guide for decision making and established a framework for environmentally friendly Port operations. The policy’s five guiding principles are:

Protect the community from harmful environmental impacts of Port operations.

Distinguish the Port as a leader in environmental stewardship and compliance.

Promote sustainability.

Employ best available technology to avoid or reduce environmental impacts.

Engage and educate the community.

 

The Green Port Policy includes six basic program elements, each with an overall goal:

Wildlife – Protect, maintain or restore aquatic ecosystems and marine habitats.

Air – Reduce harmful air emissions from Port activities.

Water – Improve the quality of Long Beach Harbor waters.

Soils/Sediments – Remove, treat, or render suitable for beneficial reuse contaminated soils and sediments in the Harbor District.

Community Engagement – Interact with and educate the community regarding Port operations and environmental programs.

Sustainability – Implement sustainable practices in design and construction, operations, and administrative practices throughout the Port.

Why don’t we have a Green Port policy for Humboldt Bay today?

Find the “Green Port” on Humboldt Bay >

Rail removal firm will pay Montco to complete work

NORRISTOWN — The Montgomery County commissioners normally are spending money when they award contracts.  

However, a contract recently awarded by the commissioners will put money into the county’s coffers. 

The county contracted with Railroad Resources and Recovery of Bethlehem to remove 2.4 miles of railroad track materials, including wooden ties and steel tracks, along the western border of the county’s Lorimer Park in Abington. 

The company will pay the county $205,100 for the job and materials it removes. 

“With the price of steel these days” responded county regional trails manager Rich Wood, explaining why the company would pay the county for the work. 

The county has entered into a nominal lease with SEPTA to use the land for a hiking and biking trail.  Read the rest of this entry »

RAPIT forum.
I am for all Port and Rail development. I want a vibrant well organized Port with Rail plans. 

But……

Robin and I went to the RAPIT meeting tonight. It was a one sided forum that needed a more consistent agenda. There were lot’s off the wall commentary and disorganization. Obviously someone was making a play on the environment by handing out “green” support cards to be sent to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Commissioners. Robin was disturbed by the postcard saying “I support environmentally responsible development. Let’s make ours the first GREEN port and railroad in America.” She felt it was bold statement with no back-up information to back up this. What qualifies this statement? What makes our potential developed bay green, and what makes other ports not green. If that is the case, why did they skirt around the question of erosion during dredging and release of ballast organism. And where on the card is the mention of the RAPIT forum? Bill Bertain said RAPIT is a task force? Are they? And who is the ptyson@portofhumboldtbay.org. on the front of the card?

Bill Bertain was the moderator for this forum, with a bias. Made the comment it would take 72 million in 1998 dollars to revitalize the railroad. May be more in now dollars. I think Bill is a great guy, but he needed to stay on task. If you have not been part of this process, I can see where you could get lost. Read the rest of this entry »

“no one expected that the contribution from ships of solid sulphur-rich particles called primary sulphate would be so high.”

Pollution from ships causing thousands of deaths
Sulphur particles from ships may be responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths a year, say US scientists
guardian.co.uk
Tuesday August 19 2008 09:51 BST

Sea air is generally regarded as healthy, but it may be polluted with dangerous chemicals from ships, say scientists.

Dirty smoke pouring out of the funnels of ships at sea or in port is having a major impact on the air quality of coastal cities, a study has found.

Researchers used a chemical fingerprinting technique to identify “primary sulphate” in ship emissions. This consists of tiny sulphur particles, less than 1.5 microns across, which can be carried long distances on the wind.

Breathed in, they lodge deep inside the lungs and pose a serious health hazard. It is estimated that ship pollution may be responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths a year worldwide.

The US scientists from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) found that ships contributed far more of the sulphate in the atmosphere than was previously realised. Their analysis separated primary sulphate from ship smoke and other sources, such as vehicle exhaust emissions.

Air samples showed that 44% of the sulphate polluting coastal California could be traced to ships. On some days ship sulphate accounted for almost a half of the fine particles in the air. Ships burning high sulphur fuel in the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego were largely to blame, the scientists discovered.

Primary sulphate is produced when ships burn a cheap sulphur-rich fuel called “bunker oil”. The particles are believed to be especially harmful to human health because of their small size.

Read the rest of the article >

Action Alert!!   

Speak out to protect Humboldt Bay and the community!

Attend the RAPIT Meeting THIS WEDNESDAY 8/20/2008 5:30 pm at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka.

The Rail and Port Infrastructure Taskforce (RAPIT) will be holding a forum this Wednesday at 5:30 at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka to discuss the development of Humboldt Bay as an industrial port.  Speakers will include:

   David Hull, CEO, Humboldt Bay Harbor District.

   A representative from Ports America AIG.

   A legislative representative from the ILWU (longshoremen’s union).

   Mitch Stogner, executive director, North Coast Railroad Authority.

   Humboldt Bay Mariculture industry leaders.

This industry-driven forum is being held to garner support for the development of the Redwood Marine Terminal Project, which would bring an industrialized container shipping facility to Humboldt Bay.  This project will bring with it a host of environmental problems with it including impacts to the Bay from increased dredging, unregulated air pollution, and unregulated water quality impacts from ballast water and increased the likelihood of a major oil spill occurring in Humboldt Bay that would devastate the Bay and the coastal waters. 

Please Come And Speak For The Bay And The Community!

After 100 years of industrial activity around Humboldt Bay, the community is looking for clean industry that protects the health of the Bay and the community and supports our quality life here on the north coast.

Tell The Harbor District You Do Not Support The Business Plan For The Redwood Marine Terminal Project!

Currently, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District is accepting public comment on the development of the Redwood Marine Terminal on the shores of Humboldt Bay.  This project is focused on the re-industrialization of Humboldt Bay by bringing polluting container ships to the Bay and resuming service by the defunct the North Coast Railroad to Humboldt Bay.  The business plan and feasibility study can be viewed at:  www.humboldtbay.org

Your Comments Are Needed. Be part of the solution!

Call: (443-0801) or email the Humboldt Bay Harbor District

email: ptyson@portofhumboldtbay.org

Tell them you DO NOT support the Redwood Marine Terminal Project.  Every voice counts!

SEE YOU WEDNESDAY – SHOW UP EARLY – BRING A FRIEND – ADVOCATE FOR THE BAY!

“The railroads’ starting point in the discussion is that they don’t want to pay for anything,” he said. “There’s a stalemate. The railroads are the party-poopers who take all the fun out of the party.”

Port of Oakland’s rail plans can’t leave station
(The following story by Blanca Torres appeared on the San Francisco Business Times website on August 14.)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Every day, ships bring thousands of cargo containers to the Port of Oakland where they are transferred to either trucks or trains and slip quickly from view.

More than 450 miles away, rail freight crosses the Tehachapi mountain pass on its way to the Southeast. Donner Pass, almost 200 miles northeast of Oakland, is the main gateway to the Midwest. Improving these two arteries and moving forward with local projects could dramatically improve the port’s ability to increase volume and not lose business to other West Coast ports.

“The Port of Oakland could really grow if we could get the rail capacity we need down the line,” said Steve Gregory, a senior planner with the Port of Oakland.

The port wants to double its volume to about 5 million container units per year by 2020. Currently, the port moves about 2.4 million container units per year and more than 6,100 each day. Omar Benjamin, executive director of the port, believes now is the time to make major improvements and investments to ensure future growth. Read the rest of this entry »

“NCRA has become, instead, a pretend railroad, existing primarily to garner federal and state funds as those involved, including Hauser during his brief tenure as NCRA’s chief executive, insist that an operating railroad will emerge someday.”

Dan Walters: An example of why state Legislature is a dysfunctional mess
By Dan Walters — Bee Columnist
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, June 27, 2005

When Arnold Schwarzenegger says the Legislature is insular, ineffective and beholden to special interests, he’s absolutely correct.

Senate Bill 792 is a perfect microcosm of legislators’ utter disconnection from reality and common sense, and their penchant for wasting their time and our money on favors and trivia.

Briefly, SB 792 would let an obscure entity called the North Coast Railroad Authority use $5.5 million in state funds, originally set aside to repay a federal loan, for operational purposes. But to understand its utter absurdity, one needs some history.

For 70 years, beginning in 1914, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad, operated a 300-mile-long line connecting the San Francisco Bay Area with Eureka, mostly carrying lumber. But NWP was a very expensive line to maintain because much of its track paralleled the Eel River, subject to damage from heavy winter rains and the region’s notoriously unstable geology. As freight business declined, Southern Pacific finally concluded that the NWP was a loser and in the 1980s, sought to shut it down. A private company was formed to buy it in the mid-1980s, but it went bankrupt two years later.

A local assemblyman, Dan Hauser, persuaded the Legislature to create the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) in 1989 to take over the northern portion of the line, contending that public ownership could make it viable. But NCRA experienced exactly the same problems that previous owners had seen. Seven years ago, federal officials shut down the railroad for poor maintenance. Ever since, its roadbed has continued to erode, its tracks have continued to rust and it has not functioned as a railroad in any rational sense. Nor could it function, any objective appraisal would easily conclude. Read the rest of this entry »

L.A Biz Observed
Mark Lacter • Bio • Email

July traffic at the Port of Los Angeles fell 2.54 percent from a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach saw a 12.9 percent decline. The pattern all year has been big drops in container boxes coming in and big increases in boxes going out (reflecting the weak dollar). Trouble is, the volume of imports is far greater than the volume of exports so overall traffic has been down. To some extent, the sluggishness also reflects more shipping lines bypassing the two major West Coast ports by using the Panama Canal for delivery to the Gulf Coast and East Coast. Another factor is the comparison with the first part of 2007, when business was still pretty good.

Year to date, L.A. traffic is down 6.13 percent, while Long Beach is down 9.4 percent. There’s no telling when we might see bottom, though the Economic Development Corp. projects a 4.5 percent decline for all of 2008. If you’re getting OD’d on the often conflicting economic data coming out of Washington, these port numbers are worth keeping an eye on. Our economy, like it or not, is based on the willingness and ability of American consumers to buy stuff – and when there’s less and less stuff coming in, it means the country is still not in a spending mood. Here is the L.A. breakout and here are the Long Beach numbers.

 “I am opposed to this project….It encroaches on my railroad….You have no right to take this railroad track and turn it into a trail.”

Can the railroad reign in its operator?
Wed, 08/13/2008
Chris Rall

Discussions at the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) meeting today seemed to indicate that the Board of Directors is making strides to meet trail advocates somewhere in the middle while the operator, Northwest Pacific Railroad (NWP), headed by John Williams, doesn’t have much interest in a cooperative relationship with trail advocates.

We’ve had our differences with the Board when it comes to the feasibility of rebuilding and maintaining the railroad from Willits up to Humboldt Bay, but in agreeing to disagree, we are seeing some trail progress. The Board continues to move slowly toward railbanking the Annie and Mary section of the Railroad from Arcata to Blue Lake to create a trail there, has directed staff to create guidelines for rail-with-trail projects, and will likely provide a letter of support for Arcata to commence a planning process for a rail-with-trail project along the railroad corridor in Arcata, possibly connecting with the Annie and Mary Trail, and continuing south to the Arcata Marsh.

But for some reason, John Williams of the NWP doesn’t see trail development as a good way for the railroad to gain public support. He has entered a lease to operate the southern portion of the line and has an option to operate the Eel River and Humboldt Bay sections.

Read the rest of Chris’s excellent reporting on the NCRA meeting >

“It appears that the consultants produced a plan that told the commissioners and their staff what they wanted to hear.”

Concerns over Redwood Marine Terminal Business Plan
Mike Zeppegno/For the Times-Standard
Article Launched: 08/13/2008 01:27:20 AM PDT

I want to take this opportunity to voice my concern over the business plan from TranSystems for the proposed marine terminal. I have read all the various reports, plans, and proposals that are on the harbor district’s Web site. I have also followed the public discussions at the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District meetings, letters to the editor, and other pertinent info found in our local media. In my opinion the harbor district paid TranSystems $100,000 for a business plan that is short in providing essential details. It appears that the consultants produced a plan that told the commissioners and their staff what they wanted to hear. Objective analysis was not part of their deliverable. As I reviewed the business plan I could not believe how lacking it was in providing accurate analysis on projected harbor revenue streams. The district is looking at a $36 million project without the benefit of an objective cost analysis. Where is the basis for a return on investment (ROI)?

I worked for IBM for 24 years and spent another 15 years as a senior executive at a small computer hardware, software, and consulting company. During this time I have prepared, reviewed, and presented numerous business plans. If I produced the type of document being used as a proposal for the district in my work I would have lost credibility with my superiors.

The advice and training I received in my career in the technology industry stressed the need forquantitative analysis which included factors like pay back and return on investment (ROI).

I have listened to all the arguments on both sides: The need for jobs, environmental issues, growth versus no growth, and railroad viability. What it comes down to for me is the business plan makes no financial sense. The plan as submitted by TranSystems is too speculative. I was pleased to hear Dennis Hunter at the last HBHRCD meeting asking for more specifics from the consultants on whether jobs would go to locals, how the project would protect/improve the environment, and stimulate the local economy.

Questions like these, and accurate projections of trade through 2015, plus a real assessment on cruise ship traffic need to be addressed.

Read the rest of the story >

From the Humboldt Bay Stewards form Tursday, August 12, 2008.

Forum coverage at Greenwheels >

The Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District often refers to Humboldt Bay as the 2nd largest bay in California. That is true. However it can be misleading as Humboldt is in reality a fraction of the size of the largest – San Francisco Bay.

Click on the diagrams to enlarge.

Bay comparison

Bay comparison

Another comparison of scale. Below is a diagram comparing a state of the art shipping crane (as purchased by the Port of Oakland in 2005. The crane is 240+ feet tall. It is unknown how large the cranes at the Redwood Dock would be.

 

Shipping crane size comparison

Shipping crane size comparison

” it would be “terrible” if there were a dozen trains running through Tracy every day.”

Union Pacific could derail Tracy plan
By Mike Martinez and Paul Burgarino
Tri-Valley Herald
Article Last Updated: 08/10/2008 08:10:17 AM PDT

TRACY — It’s been a longtime goal of many to bring trains to downtown Tracy.

It’s a campaign issue for some seeking a seat on the City Council, and the city is building a $12 million multimodal station with designs on moving the Altamont Commuter Express from Linne Road to the Bowtie area.

But recently a kink in the line has been found.

The Union Pacific Railway has quietly been developing plans to resurrect the mostly dormant Mococo line, which runs from Martinez to Tracy, with an estimated average of 10 to 15 freight trains a day, to their final destination in Roseville.

During slow economic periods, as few as three trains a day would use the line. But in better times, UP officials estimate running as many as 40.

Union Pacific decided to reactivate the line to transport consumer freight because goods manufacturers have been utilizing railroads as a cheaper means of transporting goods given rising fuel prices. Also other, more convenient, lines for transporting freight are locked in to carrying trains for commuter use, said Zoe Richmond, a Union Pacific spokeswoman.

In Tracy, the 2-mile long trains would render the multimodal station virtually useless for passenger trains before it is even completed, clog traffic on major thoroughfares already overburdened with cars, and create a potential disaster for emergency responders, city officials said.

Mayor Brent Ives, who also serves as chairman of the San Joaquin Council of Governments, said he directed city staff to meet with UP in an effort to determine the impacts on the city.

Ives ticked off six major arteries where the trains would potentially snarl traffic — Grant Line Road, Corral Hollow Road, 11th Street, Tracy Boulevard, Central Avenue and MacArthur Drive — where a need for a grade-separation crossing would be created at a cost of about $35 million for each over- or under-crossing.

He said it would be “terrible” if there were a dozen trains running through Tracy every day.

“We’ve laid out for them the clear impacts of going through Tracy on the Mococo line again,” Ives said. “They’ve been understanding and listened, but they say if they have to do it, they’ll do it.”

“UP doesn’t care who they impact,” Ives said. “it’s their line. The Bowtie and the tracks belong to them. People will tell you we’ve got to do something about it, and I’ve talked to a number of people about it, including Congressman Jerry McNerney.

“We haven’t heard (what UP is going to do), and they’re not obligated to tell us.”
Read the rest of the story >

 

 

Looking at the Future of Humboldt Bay
as an International Shipping Terminal

The Humboldt Bay Stewards invites you to join us at this community forum

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

 Wharfinger Building
1 Marina Way in Eureka

6:30-8:30pm

Join us in exploring the proposed Redwood Dock Marine Terminal that the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District is negotiating with Goldman Sachs.

Our speakers will summarize the project and discuss the impacts on the natural resources and societal values of our community.

An opportunity for questions and answers will follow the presentations.

The goal of the evening is to engage the community in this important decision for our future.

We can only plan together by working together.

 

 

“Meanwhile, all U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker… are rated “low” for congestion, the same as last month.

For Immediate Release
Press Contacts:
NRF: J. Craig Shearman (202) 626-8134 shearmanc@nrf.com
Global Insight: Paul Bingham (202) 481-9216 paul.bingham@globalinsight.com

Four Percent Drop Projected for 2008 Retail Container Traffic

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2008 – Cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to decline 4 percent in 2008 compared with 2007 because of the nation’s slow economy, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

Volume is projected to total 15.8 million Twenty-Foot-Equivalent Units for the year, compared with 16.5 million TEU in 2007. Cargo volume each month this year has been below the same month last year, and is expected to continue to be below last year’s levels in each remaining month except October and December. One TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.

“This has been a very challenging year, and cargo volume reflects consumer demand as retailers work to keep inventory as tight as possible in order to keep supply and demand in balance,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If merchants can avoid having excess merchandise on hand it means they can avoid the need for unplanned markdowns to clear their shelves, especially after the holiday season.”

U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.3 million TEU in June, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. The number was down 0.3 percent from May and10.3 percent from June 2007.

July was estimated at 1.37 million TEU, down 5.2 percent from a year ago, and August is forecast at 1.42 million TEU, down 2.7 percent. September is forecast at 1.4 million TEU, down 4.9 percent, but October is forecast to be up 1.1 percent at 1.46 million TEU. October should be the peak month of the year, though it will fall short of the 1.48 million TEU peak for 2007 set last September. November is forecast at 1.37 million TEU, down 0.3 percent, and December at 1.32 million TEU, up 3.4 percent.

Meanwhile, all U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker – Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast – are rated “low” for congestion, the same as last month.

Read the rest of the article >

“Now the waterfront is alight with cranes and terminals, but the business hasn’t quite come,” he said. “To do all that build-up, they put themselves in rather severe debt. The problem now is not revenue, but that the debt is coming due.”


Oakland port to eliminate 100 jobs
Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The Port of Oakland is cutting 100 jobs, representing about 15 percent of all positions, in its biggest reduction in force in recent memory. The cuts, to take effect Aug. 29, affect 62 filled positions and 38 that were vacant because of a partial hiring freeze. “We’ve had a tremendous upset in the aviation industry which has impacted our airport operations,” said port spokeswoman Libby Schaaf. “Consumer spending is down; the dollar is weak, that has also really impacted imports at the seaport. It’s been a prudent decision to adjust to the economic realities.” Port revenue is growing more slowly than anticipated; at the same time, debt payments are increasing for bonds that paid for past capital improvements. Read the rest of this entry »

 “Ask anyone on the sister agency, the North Coast Railroad Authority, about the Goldman Sachs deal and you get the official non-answer — vee know nossing!”


Portapalooza

North Coast Journal
August 7, 2008
By Hank Sims

All’s been quiet on the railroad for a few months. The old Northwestern Pacific line, that dead set of tracks from Humboldt County to the Bay Area, has been as quiet and trainless this summer as it has for the last 10 years. Strangely, though, even debate about the railroad seems to have gone on summer break. No one’s been much talking about the grand plans to reopen the 300-mile track, which would surely cure all our economic ills.

Instead, attention, such as it is, has focused on the railroad’s kissing cousin and partner in the master plan to revivify our economy — the Port of Humboldt Bay, supposed future home of an international freight terminal. Since the entrance of investment firm Goldman Sachs into scene, offering to sell off long-term leases on the assets of both the port and the railroad, everyone’s been focused on the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. Ask anyone on the sister agency, the North Coast Railroad Authority, about the Goldman Sachs deal and you get the official non-answer — vee know nossing!

All that is set to change this month, as the railroad steps back into the limelight. In fact, there’s a whole three-day extravaganza of port and rail development activities scheduled for next week, in and around Eureka. First up, on Tuesday, the long-dormant Bay Stewards will hold one of their informational fora, this time specifically about the Bay District’s plan to develop its marine terminal. (The forum will start at 6:30 p.m., in Eureka’s Wharfinger Building.) What, specifically, is the Bay District planning for? How many cruise ships per year? How much military cargo? How many container ships? Has the Goldman Sachs deal gone south, as was recently reported in the Times-Standard?  Insofar as anyone has actual numbers, whether imaginary or non-imaginary, they will likely be presented here.

 

Continue reading at the North Coast Journal >

 

How does train horn noise compare with other noise sources?
Federal Railroad Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation

Train horns are installed on locomotives to warn motorists or pedestrians of an approaching train at a highway-rail grade crossing. In many geographic locations, and during much of the year, motor vehicles operate with windows rolled up, air conditioning systems and radios in use. Therefore, audible warning signals must be sufficiently loud to be perceived. Unfortunately, the locomotive horn can significantly disturb those living or working near highway-rail grade crossings. A comparison of general noise levels from various commonly-experienced noise sources in our environment as well as typical ambient noise levels in the last column are shown in Figure 1. For instance, the noise resulting from the sounding of train horns has a similar impact to that of low flying aircraft and emergency vehicle sirens.

How do people react to noise from train horns?

Excessive noise has the potential to disrupt routine activities, which can affect the overall quality of life, especially in residential areas. In general, most residents become highly irritated/annoyed when noise interferes significantly with activities such as sleep, interpersonal or telephonic conversation, noise-sensitive work, watching television or listening to the radio or recorded music. In addition, some land uses, such as outdoor concert or pavilions or recreational sports venues , are inherently incompatible with high noise levels.

Human annoyance to noise in the environment has been investigated and approximate exposure-response relationships have been quantified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The selection of noise descriptors by FRA is largely based upon this EPA work. Beginning in the 1970s, EPA undertook a number of research and synthesis studies relating to community noise of all types. Results of these studies have been widely published and discussed, and are regularly cited by many professionals in the acoustics field. The basic conclusions of these studies have been adopted by the Federal Interagency Committee on Noise, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the American National Standards Institute, and in some cases by international organizations and entities. Conclusions from this seminal EPA work remain scientifically valid to this day.

In a large number of community attitudinal surveys, transportation noise has been ranked among the most significant causes of community dissatisfaction in census surveys. A synthesis of many such surveys on annoyance appears in Figure 3. Different neighborhood noise exposures are plotted horizontally. The percentage of people who are highly annoyedby their particular level of neighborhood noise is plotted vertically. As shown in the figure, at 45 Ldn, the level of high annoyance in a community averages 0 percent. At 60 Ldn, approximately 10 percent of respondents reported being highly annoyed, while at 85 Ldn, the proportion of those being highly annoyed increases quite rapidly to approximately 70 percent. The scatter about the synthesis line is due to variation from person to person, community to community, and to slight differences among the various surveys.

Read more on train noise at the Federal Rail Authority >

“Railroads historically have not paid for more than a small share (5 percent to 10 percent) of grade separations because grade separations primarily benefit the community,”
July 26, 2008
By Dan Campana
Sun-times News Group

The expensive proposition of separating roads from rail crossings is the likely way to address “a substantial increase” in freight train traffic from the Canadian National Railway’s purchase of the EJ&E rail line that runs through the Southland, a federal report released Friday states.

But it would appear to fall to government, not the railroad, to bear most of that cost, according to the report by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

“Railroads historically have not paid for more than a small share (5 percent to 10 percent) of grade separations because grade separations primarily benefit the community,” the report states.

Read the rest of the story >

“I would really like someone from the NCRA or the operator to hold a joint meeting or something,” Wilson said. “We’re not getting any acknowledgment that this project even exists.”

Answers lacking in big Bay plans – July 29, 2008

Jennifer Savage
Eye Scene Editor

WOODLEY ISLAND – Ongoing concerns over the future of Humboldt Bay prompted more than 50 people to attend last week’s Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District meeting. 

In addition to the usual attendees offering their usual critiques, a significant number of new constituents showed up.

With the room filled to capacity, many attendees could only listen through the doors, kept open through the mostly temperate evening.

Fill the marina

Prior to the big ticket items, open public comment took place. Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association representative Ken Bates reiterated the association’s request that the Bay District strive to decrease the Woodley Island Marina vacancy rate. “We still would like to see it 90 percent full,” Bates said. 

The HFMA has sought to mitigate an upcoming slip increase by suggesting the district instead  increase income by reworking its leasing policy. The association suggests the Bay District evict derelict and non-used boats, reassign boats to more appropriately sized slips and reduce the percentage of slips reserved for transient vessels to make room for local residents currently on the marina’s four-year waiting list.

Revenue bonds, explained

A presentation by District Treasurer Mark Wetzel addressed the revenue bond portion of the draft Redwood Marine Terminal Business Plan. Revenue bonds, he explained, are a form of debt secured by the revenue of a specific project, as opposed to “general obligation” bonds paid through taxes and needing voter approval. Revenue bonds are more risky, Wetzel said, and in this case, would be secured solely by projected marine terminal income. If the revenue failed to meet expectations, discharging the debt would be “a long and painful process,” he finished.

Cruise ship projections questionable

Like many, Third District Commissioner Mike Wilson questioned consultants TranSystems’ reliance on an unprecedented number of cruise ships visiting Humboldt Bay.

“It’s TranSystems’ report,” District Chief Executive Officer Hull said. “It’s theirs to justify – they need to justify.” The didn’t “just make it up,” he continued, but they failed to explain how the increase would occur. Hull said he expected the final draft to contain a better rationale.

Rail tie-in

The proposed port development necessitates the return of rail to Humboldt County, a component which continues to polarize the county. Wilson suggested seeking funding based not on revenue bonds, but by presenting the port as a coastal barge feeder alternative to the rail. “Then it actually becomes a reasonably fundable project,” he said, citing California Transportation Commission support. “It would drastically change the equation,” Wilson continued, instead of continuing what he called, “The path of most resistance.”

Discussion of the rail component prompted questions over why the North Coast Railroad Authority had yet to officially recognize its role in the proposed development plan.

“I would really like someone from the NCRA or the operator to hold a joint meeting or something,” Wilson said. “We’re not getting any acknowledgment that this project even exists.” Hull assured him that an NCRA representative would attend the next district meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

Roasts and Toasts 
The Times-Standard 
Article Launched: 08/03/2008 01:33:54 AM PDT 

Roast 
* To Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District consultants TranSystems for delivering a vague and incomplete business plan to develop a marine terminal in Samoa. The draft plan did little to enlighten commissioners or the public on what it would take for a terminal to be viable, and served only to heighten anxiety on the issue among those who are concerned about the bay and economic development. We hope the district can get its money’s worth in the final plan.

“Operations would generate emissions of nitrogen oxides that would exceed the state standard more than 10 times.”

 

Honda deal spells emissions for Richmond
By Katherine Tam
West County Times
Article Launched: 08/01/2008 05:57:29 PM PDT

Richmond is near to finalizing a deal with American Honda Motor Co. to move 150,000 cars a year through its port, a contract that could bring about $100 million in revenue over 15 years.

The deal would be a major boon to the city coffers, but it also would carry environmental impacts, including one deemed to be “significant and unavoidable,” according to the draft environmental impact report. Operations would generate emissions of nitrogen oxides that would exceed the state standard more than 10 times.

“Although mitigation measures have been identified to reduce the project’s air emissions, they would still substantially exceed the (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) threshold,” according to the document.

Nitrogen oxides alone aren’t considered harmful to people, but they contribute to smog, which can irritate the lungs and trigger asthma, said Aaron Richardson, a spokesman for the air district.

A provision in California law allows applications with emissions above state thresholds to move forward if economic or social benefits outweigh the environmental effects. The city of Richmond would need to file a Statement of Overriding Consideration outlining such benefits.

Read the rest of the story >