FATE OF NAVY PROPERTY TO BE DECIDED IN MAY

FATE OF NAVY PROPERTY TO BE DECIDED IN MAY

Port and city officials who want to construct a large container terminal on U.S. Navy property cited job creation, while preservationists opposing the project at the Port of Long Beach spoke of the need to preserve historic structures at a public hearing Wednesday evening.

Navy officers took all of the comments under advisement and are expected to announce in May their decision on the future of the shuttered Long Beach Navy Station and adjacent Navy Shipyard. The combined properties total more than 500 acres and are located in the heart of the nation's busiest containerport.The port last year signed a lease with China Ocean Shipping Co. for construction of a container terminal and on-dock railyard, but that project was blocked by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who said the city and port did not consider other possible uses for the site that would allow historic naval structures to be saved.

A new environmental impact report was performed that looks at three options, two of which would preserve the structures while allowing a scaled-down container terminal to be built.

Opponents of the project also include a group affiliated with former presidential candidate Ross Perot. That group does not want former government property leased to a shipping line owned by a communist government.

Long Beach hopes to begin construction in May, if a container terminal is approved. However, since its lease with Cosco is canceled, the terminal would be open to all carriers. Cosco could be expected to apply again, but there may also be other applicants, said port spokeswoman Yvonne Avila.

In previous statements, Cosco indicated its needs can be met at its present 140-acre terminal in Long Beach for another two or three years, but the company wants to stake out a choice site where land is limited.