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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

Coastal Agency Sets New Hearing

Less than two months after hearing a proposal on homeporting nuclear carriers in San Diego, the California Coastal Commission is scheduled the hear the same proposal again.

This time, they might actually vote on it.

The U.S. Navy’s proposal to bring two Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carriers to San Diego was heard earlier this month by commission officials, who decided not to vote on the application.

The commission’s decision stemmed, they said, from concerns over traffic, potential environmental impact and a lack of emergency planning for a nuclear or chemical reaction at the site.

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As a result, Navy officials have agreed to extend the public hearing process, and the homeporting proposal will go before the commission again Dec. 7-10, in San Francisco.

Having the carriers in San Diego could have a tremendous impact on the local economy.

Brian O’Rourke, assistant public affairs officer for the Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, said each carrier would have a crew of 3,000 sailors with an annual payroll of $126 million.

According to figures released by the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, one carrier could bring upwards of $250 million to the local economy.

But the Navy’s plans for accommodating the carriers was not sufficient for the commission to make a decision, and service is going to try and get a vote again.

“The Navy has agreed to the extension, and the project will be heard again in December,” said Larry Simon, a commission staff member.

“Hopefully, this will allow them to present more information to the commission, and we (the commission) will also have more information from the public about the project,” Simon said.

Navy’s Plans

The Navy’s plan involves dredging 500,000 cubic yards (18 acres) off Pier J to widen the channel so a new carrier could get in and out of the wharf.

The dredged material would then be disposed of south of the Navy’s Amphibious Base, and used to build a 37-acre shallow water inter-tidal habitat-enhancement site.

Another 1.5 acres of fill would be removed for the wharf to build a 2.5 acre eelgrass mitigation site near Pier B.

Critics of the plan charge the Navy with being “grossly deficient” in its environmental impact report.

“San Diego is less protected from so many other areas of the country, because the Navy is here, and they’re exempt from so many laws,” said Laura Hunter of the Environmental Health Coalition.

“Finally, some agency has decided to hold the Navy accountable,” Hunter said.

But Navy officials say they have researched and gathered as much information as possible about the proposal’s impact.

Safety Record

The Navy is still waiting for a response to the Environmental Impact Statement it submitted about the project to the Secretary of the Navy for evaluation.

“We stand on our nuclear safety record,” said Tom Boothe, commander of the southwest division of the Naval Facility of Engineering.

Boothe, who presented the proposal to the Coastal Commission, said he was disappointed with the commission’s decision not to vote, but said the Navy will comply with the commission’s request for more information and public comment.

The commission’s staff, which prepares recommendation reports for the commissioners before a presentation, has already issued a favorable opinion on the homeporting proposal.

Staff member Simon reported to the commission that the dredging materials had been properly tested by the Navy and that they were “suitable for open water disposal.”

He also reported that the Navy had a “sound” plan for pollution prevention.

Information on the Coastal Commission’s December meeting is available from its Web site at (www.ceres.ca.gov/coastalcomm/web).

According to figures released by the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, one carrier could bring upwards of $250 million to the local economy.


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