History of the Port of Long Beach
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History of the Port of Long Beach
The San Pedro Bay breakwater began construction in 1899. This was to facilitate the building of the Port of Los Angeles. It served well as a breakwater for both ports.
In 1909 the Los Angeles Dock and Terminal Company purchased about 800 acres of marshes and mudflats at the mouth of the Los Angeles River. On June 24, 1911, in a grant from the State of California, the City of Long Beach was given the tideland areas in trust for the people of the state. The theory behind the tidelands was that although they were mostly shallow water, they could be dredged to make deep water. This provided as much fill as the port needed to make additional land and piers. The Tidelands Trust restricted the use of the land. It also restricted what could be done with monies received from the different ventures allowed on the property. The money was only to be used for improving or maintaining harbor commerce and navigation, or for marine recreation or fisheries.
By 1916 the Los Angeles Dock and Terminal Company declared bankruptcy and turned over all operations of the port to the City of Long Beach. The city then completed the dredging projects that were already underway including a channel and a turning basin. The following year a committee was formed to oversee harbor operations. It was the first Board of Harbor Commissioners.
In 1924 voters of Long Beach approved a five million dollar bond for use in improving the inner harbor area as well as beginning development of the outer harbor areas. The goal was to become a deep water port and by 1926, the Port of Long Beach did exactly that. The port handled eight hundred twenty-one ships and imported or exported a total of more that one million tons of cargo. Shortly thereafter, in 1928, construction began on new facilities to include new Piers A and B. At the same time, Pier 1 was reconstructed and a new transit building was completed on it. The port then renamed Pier 1, “Municipal Wharf.”
Further construction of the San Pedro Bay breakwater began in 1932. The extension was to be three and one-half miles by authorization of the Federal River and Harbor Act of 1930. In 1936 oil was discovered in the harbor. The good thing about finding oil in the harbor was that the port then had a sizeable amount of capital to invest back into itself. With capital, the port could quickly produce world-class facilities in which to bring in the biggest customers without immediately reflecting the cost of such improvements back to the customer. The first oil wells were erected in 1938 and produced income for the City and Port of Long Beach.
A dredging project to build a land mass as big as nine city blocks began in 1939. Then, in 1940, the United States Navy was able to nail down the details of a purchase of one hundred acres of land on Terminal Island for the bargain price of one Dollar. The Navy used the property to establish a new naval station. The last leg of the San Pedro Bay breakwater began construction in 1941. This two and one-half mile leg was worked on for two years until a stoppage was caused by World War II. By 1946 construction had resumed and by 1949 the breakwater was completed. Including the original structure and the first addition, it stretched more than eight miles across San Pedro Bay, and today protects the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach, and the City of Long Beach.
The drilling of oil in the harbor brought with it many gains. The one hundred twenty-six harbor wells that were operating in 1943 produced seventeen thousand barrels of oil per day and earned ten million dollars that year. Subsidence is defined by the Columbia Encyclopedia as, “the lowering of a portion of the Earths crust.” This can be because the soft materials that make up the land get eroded away, or as in the case of the Port of Long Beach, it was the removal of oil that caused the sinking of the earth. By 1945 this sinking was a major concern. The average subsidence rate was one half to two feet per year. From 1936 to 1962, the center of the oil field had settled twenty-seven feet (Subsidence, 2003). The port constructs dikes to control flooding and hire geologists and engineers to study the problem.
In 1948 Pierpoint Landing called Pier F home and became the largest sportfishing operation in the world. Pierpoint Landing today attracts over two million anglers annually.
The Port of Long Beach reached another first in 1949. Its Jacobsen Pilot Station installed a shore based radar system. This was the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. Also in 1949, construction of 36 acre Pier E was completed and Pier B doubled in size (Port of Long Beach, 2002).
In 1951 the Tidelands Grant of 1911 was amended to authorize half of the revenues from the oil pumped from