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The Power of the Port

In 2030, the California Air Resources Board is pushing Ports to get as close to zero emission as possible. This is a surprisingly hard task, considering the current technology—but the Port of Stockton has readily risen to the challenge. Starting early so as to reduce their impact to the local air basin, the Port of Stockton has several efficient and award-winning projects that are already in the works to be as green as possible.

“One of our biggest pushes lately is moving toward zero-emission cargo-handling equipment,” said Jeff Wingfield, Director of Environmental and Public Affairs. “We are working on several different projects to bring in zero-emission vehicles, replacing diesel-powered equipment with cleaner electric models.”

Electric Forklift Working

In fact, they’ve just started receiving some of the lithium ion units within the last three weeks, as of writing. These forklifts can carry loads of 36,000 pound steel coils. To enact these projects, they’ve partnered with the Ports of Long Beach and Oakland, as well as one of their tenants, Stevedoring Services of America. At the end of the day, they will receive 36 zero-emission cargo handling units, setting them up to be one of the cleanest Ports in terms of percentage of zero-emission equipment.

“The Port’s programs are not only meeting the legal obligations that any business would undertake, but they are also taking the next step to improve the quality of life of people in the region,” said Richard Aschieris, Port Director. “These programs are important to the Port, though not required. We wanted to go the extra mile.”

Most popular are the owl nesting boxes. For those unfamiliar, the Port has about 20 boxes set up for owls to nest in and control the pest population around the Port in a natural way. They’re at about 95 percent occupancy and incredibly efficacious. They’ve also hooked up cameras to watch the owls, having recently added sound so you can experience these magnificent and helpful creatures closer than most get a chance to.

“There are other Ports that have been reaching out to incorporate similar programs at their facilities.,” said Wingfield. “We actually won a national award for this program.”

The award came from the American Association of Port Authorities that oversees Canada, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. This project won the 2017 Environmental Improvement Award, of which only four are given out and they won two in one year. The other project they won an award for is the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.

The Antioch Dunes are a habitat in Antioch that was diminished from the 1906 fire in San Francisco. Sand was harvested from Antioch to rebuild the city after the disaster—but when they harvested the sand, taking the land down to the hardpan, they stripped away the habitat for several endangered species: the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose, the Contra Costa Wallflower, and an endangered butterfly species, the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly. To combat this problem, the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) was interested in acquiring material and the Port learned about the need for clean sand.

The Port then partnered with the USFWS and the US Army Corps of Engineers to place sand that was dredged from the deep water ship channel to restore the Antioch Dunes. The Port acted as an intermediary to facilitate placing this crucial material in an area where it can replenish the landscape. One of the endangered plant species, the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose, is already coming back and it’s doing better than it ever has, currently growing at its highest number seen since the 1970’s. Although it was a very long, difficult process in order to get the permitting work done, and to get everyone on the same page and working together, it was certainly worth it.

There’s also the South Ditch Stormwater Project, which just finished permitting. This project aims to restore stormwater infrastructure to a more natural waterway utilizing wetland plants to help naturally filter out impurities or heavy metals from the stormwater before it goes into our retention pond. Eventually, when it meets water quality criteria it will flow back into the river.

“We got the grant, we’ve completed all the permits now, so we’re going to go into construction in the summer,” said Wingfield. “We’re hoping we can have a natural area to filter our stormwater and eventually duplicate this in other areas of the Port, and also create an area where employees can walk and relax during breaks”

They were even the second Port in California to get Green Marine certified in June 2019. Green Marine is a program whose participants are committed to continuously reducing their environmental footprint. Each year, they benchmark their environmental performance through Green Marine environmental programs detailed framework. The certification process is rigorous and transparent and done by a third-party evaluator.

“We aim to reduce the overall impact of the Port facility on the surrounding environment,” said Wingfield. “So we were pretty excited to be the second Port in California to get that certification.” And if a massive Port with incredible output that is the veritable centerpiece of Stockton can start reducing their emissions closer and closer to zero, why not start with your own business?

“The first step that you have to take is that you have to make a decision—are you willing to make that level of commitment?” said Aschieris. “We’ve decided that the Port is, in fact, willing. We make these goals to enhance the quality of lives not just in Stockton, but in the Northern San Joaquin Valley Region.”

For more information about the Port of Stockton and its green initiatives, visit www.portofstockton.com. 

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