Stockton port sues over expansion onto Rough and Ready Island
Associated Press -
STOCKTON - Environmental groups sued the Port of Stockton, arguing its proposed expansion would bring in more ship traffic, noise and the pollution of water and air in the delta.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in San Joaquin County Superior Court by Stockton-based DeltaKeeper, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and several neighborhood associations, alleges that port commissioners didn't consider the environmental impact of increased traffic.
The port's expansion plan estimates that the number of ships coming to the port could go from 20 per year to about 150.
"The bottom line, I feel it's not appropriate to bring in heavy commercial shipping so close to established residences," said Ann Chargin, who lives in Riviera Cliffs, near the proposed expansion.
Documents show the port plans to spend $190 million on the 1,400-acre island, which was once a naval supply base and communications center. The project would create 40,000 jobs.
The port director said residents' concerns were considered. The commissioners have taken measures to reduce reliance on noisy generators and are also working with ship and boat companies to limit the amount of diesel exhaust expelled in the area.
"We're still interested in being able to do a development there and still want to be sensitive to the communities living near this project," Port Director Richard Aschieris said.
Port Commissioner Steve Herum said the environmental reviews done before the project was approved on June 23 were among the most complete he had ever seen. He also said residents were more concerned about the value of their homes than about any damage to the environment.
The litigants disagree. Clean water advocates said they're worried about the impact of the sevenfold increase of commercial ship traffic on the health of delta's plant and animal life.
"Our environment, public health, and quality of life cannot be sacrificed just because the port wishes to expand. The law requires adverse impacts to be acknowledged and mitigated," said Bill Jennings of DeltaKeeper.
This is the second suit NRDC brought against a port. The first one, against the port of Los Angeles, resulted in a recent $60 million settlement that required the port to take several measures to lessen the impact of ship traffic on the environment, said Julie Masters, NRDC's leading attorney on the case.
Now a ship docking at the port can get its power from shore, instead of running their diesel engines for days, and some shipyard equipment will run on alternative fuels, instead of the dirtier diesel, Masters said.
"These are the measures we'd like to see in Stockton," said Masters, adding that the organization will be following what other ports around the country do as they plan for expansions, and considering suits similar to these two when mitigation measures are not part of the plan.
There is no date set for a hearing on the case.#