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Port of San Diego sets goal to reduce pollution

Cruise ships docking at the Port of San Diego can now plug into clean electricity. This reduces the need for the vessels to use their diesel engines while in port, thereby reducing air pollution.

As an environmental steward of San Diego Bay and the tidelands, the Port of San Diego has initiated a number of programs that are improving air quality and providing for a cleaner bay.

A recent addition to the environmental efforts is a long-range plan to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and planning for sea level rise.

The Board of Port Commissioners recently established a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions along the tidelands by 10 percent by the year 2020 and 25 percent by 2035.

The targets will be incorporated into the port district’s Climate Plan. The plan will serve as a guide for future planning and development of land within the port district’s jurisdiction in San Diego Bay and its five member cities of Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego.

The plan will address the port’s vulnerability to sea level rise and the impacts from the changing climate, and it will identify strategies for reducing greenhouse gases. The port district staff will soon circulate the Climate Plan for public review and comment with a proposed final plan expected to be submitted to the Board of Port Commissioners for review by year’s end. If adopted by the board, the Climate Plan will be incorporated into a variety of district processes and be used for evaluating and approving new projects as part of the review required under the California Environmental Quality Act.

By preparing for the expected impacts, the port district will be protecting its property, saving money and safeguarding wildlife.

“The Port of San Diego is a leader in developing a plan like this,” said Board of Port Commissioners Chairman Lou Smith. “No other port in the country has a comprehensive plan that addresses both climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas reductions.”

Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the Earth warmer. Human activities are responsible for much more of the greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere than would occur naturally. The largest source from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for transportation, electricity and heat.

The Port of San Diego began working nearly two years ago on developing the Climate Plan. While not a requirement, there are several state guidelines and regulations driving its development.

These include the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) and the California Governor’s Executive Order S-3-05. Each sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For assistance in preparing the Climate Plan, the port has reached out to its member cities, the San Diego Port Tenants Association and its partners, along with state and federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Others assisting in the plan’s preparation have been the port’s Environmental Advisory Committee, which includes commissioners and several stakeholders, such as the Environmental Health Coalition and The San Diego Foundation.

The plan will guide the port in several areas. For example, for areas where flooding is anticipated in coming years, the Climate Plan may recommend steps the port can take to ensure storm water drainage systems can handle the water.

Because of the sensitive habitats found in San Diego Bay, the plan might recommend additional monitoring or protection.

With rising sea levels and increased storm surges expected, there could be strategies for reinforcing coastal infrastructure.

Besides the Climate Plan, the port has a number of initiatives in place to address environmental issues. These include the Green Port Program, which seeks to minimize the port’s environmental impact by decreasing its energy and water use and improving air quality.

The port implemented the Copper Reduction Program, which is designed to minimize the copper that primarily comes from copper-based paint on the hulls of boats. The copper in the paint is a biocide that leaches into the water, causing contamination that is harmful to marine life. The reduction of the copper levels will result in a cleaner San Diego Bay and marinas.

In addition, equipment has been installed at the cruise ship terminals to power docked ships by an electrical source. The port also provided financial help for truck operators to install special diesel-emissions filters or replace older model vehicles so they could reduce their emissions. These initiatives have contributed to improved air quality around the port’s cruise ship and cargo terminals.

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