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Plan to Reroute Ships Could Affect Navy Base

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Concerned that a state proposal to reduce air pollution by rerouting ships away from the coast could jeopardize operations at Point Mugu Navy base, Supervisor John Flynn is asking county leaders to devise a strategy to oppose the plan.

Supported by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the proposal seeks to meet federal mandates to reduce air pollution in Southern California by diverting oil tankers and large freighters to the waters beyond the Channel Islands.

But Navy officials want the commercial shipping lanes to continue to run through the Santa Barbara Channel between the islands and the coast.

They contend that the alternate route would do little, if anything, to improve air quality, and are worried that passing ships would interfere with the missile tests they conduct on the sea range outside of the islands.

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“The proposal to move the ships 25 miles off the coast would have a great impact on the Point Mugu sea range,” said Capt. Tony Parisi, the base’s public works officer. “Because of safety concerns, we have to make sure the area around our tests is clear, and moving those lanes off the coast would make that very difficult.”

Flynn said it is critical to assist the base by becoming involved in the issue, and that he is concerned that the efforts to reduce air pollution regionwide could actually worsen air pollution in the county.

He wants the county’s Air Pollution Control District to become involved in the process, which is spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency and other air quality regulators, to make sure that whatever happens does not hurt the county.

“It’s important for us, because the EPA is coordinating a bunch of groups right now, and we don’t seem to be a part of it,” Flynn said. “Whatever they do could impact Ventura County, not just the Navy’s mission here.

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“It could cause the ship captains to increase their speed, since they have a longer way to go, and therefore increase the pollution,” he added.

“It appears that the South Coast [Air Quality Management District] and the ports down [south] want to solve the problem by dumping this on us.”

Supervisor Frank Schillo said he and other members of the Regional Defense Partnership, which works to ensure the future of local military bases, have already been lobbying state officials on the Navy’s behalf.

But he supports Flynn’s efforts to take a more active role in the issue.

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“We think this is going to impact the Navy a lot, and the people considering this didn’t really seem to think about that,” Schillo said. “And if what they’re doing is actually going to increase air pollution in our area, we should be complaining.”

The proposal to shift the shipping lanes is in the 1995 state implementation plan to comply with the federal Clean Air Act.

Navy officials would like to see the proposal removed. To reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide pollutants, which react in sunlight with other chemicals to create ozone, they advocate a simpler plan: Slow the ships down.

“The whole idea of moving the traffic was based on the assumption that that would reduce emissions onshore,” Parisi said.

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“That simply is not the case, according to our studies and other studies that have been done. We believe that if ship speeds were lowered through the area, that would reduce emissions.”

The California Air Resources Board has formed a technical working group that will review both proposals. Navy officials will take part in the review.


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