A $30 million grant to Northern California ports is no cause for competitive worry among those pushing a robust business park near Crows Landing, supporters say.
Wednesday's announcement of the federal stimulus grant to the Ports of Oakland, Stockton and West Sacramento should rally barge traffic among them much sooner than West Park could establish a short-haul rail link between Oakland and Crows Landing.
But West Park developer Gerry Kamilos said perceived competition means little next to the larger goal of boosting Northern California trade. The stronger the regional capacity, the better for Stanislaus County, he said.
In other words, it's a struggle between Northern and Southern California, not boats versus trains.
Not everyone buys that reasoning.
The $30 million grant will allow the Port of Stockton to buy cranes able to lift 100-ton-plus containers compared with its current 30-ton capacity, said port Director Rick Aschieris. The money also will build a 30-acre storage facility, improve rail spurs and buy a new barge, he said.
Tankers steaming into Oakland soon could transfer more and larger containers to barges heading for Stockton and West Sacramento, where contents can be shipped by rail all over the continent. Establishing that "marine highway" takes large trucks off highways, reducing traffic and air pollution, the ports say.
"The grant would probably make for more efficient movement of cargo here than running down to Crows Landing, then back up to here," Aschieris said.
West Park and Stanislaus County should have considered a Stockton link instead of insisting on Oakland, attorneys for Patterson argued in a lawsuit demanding more environmental study. Both sides await an appellate court ruling.
"This certainly should cause the county to ask themselves where they're going with West Park, if indeed the largest port in Northern California just received a grant to do this someplace other than Stanislaus County," said attorney Steve Herum, who represents Patterson. Herum also is a 10-year Port of Stockton commissioner heavily involved in the tri-port "California Green Trade Corridor" grant application.
Kamilos, a suburban Sacramento developer, said such skepticism takes too short of a view. Building Oakland's reputation as a first port of call for ships from Asia is fabulous for Crows Landing's long-term goals, he said.
"Our project is a multidecade project," Kamilos said. "Projects like ours and the marine highway are setting strong foundations for us to address capacity requirements over the next several decades."
Keith Boggs, county deputy executive officer and its project manager for Crows Landing, said Northern California's goods-movement system is fragmented. Stimulus money correcting that helps everyone, he said.
Crows Landing represents a "powerful Northern California jobs center and hub that can complement those other areas and bring quality jobs to the Central Valley," Boggs said.
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Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.