Ports & Terminals

Port of Redwood City sees 13% mid-year revenue increase

The Port of Redwood City announced that it received a mid-year financial report stating that gross revenues were up by 13% when compared year over year, from $4.5 million to $5.1 million.

The increase is primarily attributed to an uptick in cargo operations, which is up about 11% over the previous period thanks to post-pandemic supply chain recovery, as well as overall improved fiscal management practices.

Unfortunately, shoaling of the Port’s ship channel is likely to reduce volume for the second half of the fiscal year.

Port tenants import materials like concrete, aggregates, gypsum, slag, and other materials used by the construction industry. The primary export of the Port is scrap or recycled materials.

Also at the March 22nd meeting, the Board of Port Commissioners selected CDM Smith as the consultant firm to conduct the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process on the future Redwood City Ferry Terminal Project. CDM Smith’s role is to lead the environmental impact studies for the Ferry Terminal.

This action marks the next step in implementing the public ferry service and aligns with the proposed project schedule to be completed in 2026. The purpose of this project is to create an alternative transportation option for commuters and help remove traffic congestion from the highways. The Port will represent the southernmost hub and connect the mid-Peninsula to the San Francisco Bay Ferry System, serving San Francisco and East Bay.

“All of these exciting updates further underscore the Port’s role as an economic engine for the Silicon Valley region,” stated Port of Redwood City Board Chair Ralph Garcia.

In an interview with AJOT, Kristine Zortman, Executive Director Port of Redwood City said:

“We've seen the cargo remain consistent and … grow. One of the impediments that we still struggle with to close out this fiscal year is we still have channel challenges. We are authorized, as you know, at 30 feet for our channel right now, the SF Bar Pilots have deemed it at … 23 feet.”

The cause is ship channel shoaling: “What we're seeing is about on par with where we were … that same time in the fiscal year last year. I think what we're seeing now (is) that we may be closing out the year a little … lighter than what we did last fiscal year. And again, I attribute that to our channel challenges.”

On the positive side: “…the good thing for us … is … we're pushing the Corps to get our dredging done sooner rather than later this year. And they do have it, I believe, slated to go out to bid in a mid-June, July timeframe for dredging like August, September. “

The impact of the shallower ship channel is that for the month of December, Sims Metal, which receives, sorts, separates and stores bulk metal scrap for export at the Port: “had a couple of vessels that were supposed to call at its Port of Redwood City facility but could not because of some channel impediments. Sims actually had to truck some of their materials up to (the) Port of Richmond because at least they could then load the ship completely full and depart from there.”

There has been a similar impact at CEMEX, the cement, concrete and aggregate maker which operates an 8.2-acre terminal at the Port: “We've also seen an increase in barges, for our other cement shipper tenants just because of channel challenges.”

The Port is “hopeful … that the President's budget did have an allocation for next fiscal year for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although the amount that was in the President's budget of $4.5 million is about 50% short of what we understand the Corps submitted … to be appropriated. We are actively lobbying behind the scenes to make sure … that amount needs to be plussed up.”

As long as it receives the full dredging funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget, the Port will now have maintenance dredging on an annual basis rather than every two years which will defense against major shoaling: “So this year (2023) would be the start … of an annual dredge cycle. “

Beneficial Use for Dredge Material

A pilot project is underway to use dredge material from the Port’s ship channel dredging and deliver it to the nearby Eden Landing restoration project which seeks to restore thousands of acres of wetlands and habitat:

“We're a pilot project that the Corps has with the monies that were allocated specific to our channel … to go to Eden Landing. It's about a hundred thousand cubic yards. But it is … part of a strategic placement pilot project that they're looking at over at Eden Landing.”

The overall requirement is for millions of cubic yards of dredging material to support wetlands restoration and provide natural barriers to protect levees and communities from storm surges and sea level rise: “…our dredge materials from the ship channel will help facilitate the Corp’s beneficial reuse efforts. “

Suction Dredging

Zortman described a dredging meeting she attended where the use of suction dredging, which is not allowed in the San Francisco Bay due to the threat to fish and marine life, was discussed. Suction dredging is substantially cheaper than mechanical dredging methods and is getting a second look because of the need for accelerated dredging strategies to protect wetlands and shorelines.

Zortman explained: “And so there was a conversation, very robust I would say, with some of the dredging companies over the challenges that the dredging community has here in the Bay region, because they're not allowed to do it like you can in the Mississippi, where you suction dredge, and it costs less … For Bay disposal or upland disposal … there was a conversation, … I think it was a healthy conversation with the (San Francisco Bay) Regional Water Quality Control Board and the other regulatory agencies about: is this a time that we need to look at those regs? And is there a way to say ‘you know, losing some (fish) … but getting the other … tenfold intrinsic or beneficial impacts over here outweighs maybe a fish getting sucked in.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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