Navy gets go-ahead for $150 million plan to move ammunition wharf at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register | Published: July 3, 2019
SEAL BEACH, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A $150 million plan to relocate the ammunition wharf at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and create a new boating channel can move forward, after an environmental assessment determined it would not negatively affect surrounding communities or wildlife.
A recent assessment showed a proposed plan to relocate the ammunition wharf at Naval Weapons State Seal Beach would not negatively affect surrounding communities and wildlife.
Navy officials, on Friday, June 28, announced that the assessment, approved by local, state and federal agencies, found reconfiguration would have “no significant impacts on the quality of human, natural or cultural environment.”
The report was conducted by the Navy in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, State Historic Preservation Office, California Coastal Commission, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The 5,000-acre base is responsible for weapons storage, loading and maintenance for ships of the United States Pacific Fleet. Navy officials say the reconfiguration will provide greater installation security and improve safety for private boaters and nearby communities.
Construction could begin by the end of the year, with completion by 2025.
Officials at the base, which provides ammunition to about 40 ships a year, want to dismantle the more than 60-year-old ammunition wharf and build a new pier in a different location. They say naval operations are limited by the condition of the existing wharf.
The Navy expects to service more ships once the project is complete. The new pier would allow larger ships to more safely enter Anaheim Bay for loading and unloading.
The design also would create a new public boat navigation channel farther from Navy operations and would move ammunition loading away from Pacific Coast Highway, increasing safety for nearby communities, said Gregg Smith, spokesman for the naval base.
As part of the proposed project, Navy and research scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently pulled several threatened Eastern Pacific green sea turtles from the bay on the base. The turtles live and forage on eelgrass within the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, the only such refuge on a military installation in the nation.
NOAA biologist Jeff Seminoff, leader of the Marine Turtle Ecology and Assessment Program, examines the belly of an Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtle in Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge Seal Beach, CA, on Thursday, May 16, 2019. NOAA set up a net to catch and examine the sea turtles. Photographed under the authority of NMFS ESA Permit number 18238. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
They travel along a channel, which would be altered under the redesign.
The channel is part of a network of water that stretches across the southern end of the base to Huntington Harbour, then under the Pacific Coast Highway bridge and into Anaheim Bay.
Jeff Seminoff, marine ecologist and leader of the NOAA’s Marine Turtle Ecology and Assessment Program at the Southwest Fishery Science Center in La Jolla, and his team, are working with Navy biologists to study the turtles’ habitat and lifestyle.
That data is still being researched and will be applied to the project as it goes forward, Smith said. Earlier sea turtle studies, however, were included in the recent environmental assessment.
“We wanted more details on local turtle movements now, so that we can use that data to help ensure that we do not significantly impact the turtle population during construction,” Smith said.