Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cautious Optimism

Let joy be unconfined:

A dramatic surge in the lucrative shipping trade has Richmond officials eyeing an undeveloped stretch of marshlands for a possible container ship port.

California's major ports are already operating at full capacity, and as trade between the Pacific Rim and the United States grows, there is increasing economic pressure to build more ports along the state's shoreline.
The "undeveloped" marshland is Wildcat Marsh and its adjacent mudflats. The obstacles to development are minor enough (except for its status as California Clapper Rail habitat, which is actually a pretty big deal). The water's too shallow for shipping - these are marshlands, after all - but it could be dredged for a billion bucks or so. The dredging would unsettle a hundred years' worth of waste and sludge from the nearby Chevron refinery. But that material could always be hauled and dumped somewhere else.

West Contra Costa County has serious air-quality problems, with "six times more diesel particulates than the rest of the county." But doesn't that make it a better site for a port? After all, it's not like you'd be ruining a national park!

Those who favor the new port can point to the jobs it will create for the area's poor minority population. And indeed, one can take a certain glum satisfaction in the idea of recouping some of the jobs lost to offshoring by hiring dock workers to unload foreign-made goods (even if the boom in, say, Chinese manufacturing has unwelcome consequences for Bay Area residents).

And honestly...how else are you going to create jobs in Richmond (I mean, unless you bring back some variant of the Civilian Conservation Corps)?

There's more:
Richmond has a number of competitive advantages, according to Finance Director Jim Goins. There is enough available land to build roads, docks, and warehouse space that a port would require. The area is especially attractive because two major railroads, the Union Pacific and Burlington North & Santa Fe, are easily accessible for transporting goods inland. And trucks would be able to use the Richmond Parkway to access interstates 580 and 80.
A fair summation, except that they left out the crematorium.

With all these positives, it's little wonder that
Balancing the potential for city revenue and jobs for Richmond residents, City Manager Bill Lindsay is cautiously optimistic about the development of a major container ship port in Richmond.
Not much I can say to that, except that I'd hate to see Lindsay's idea of reckless optimism.

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