Carnival's Panorama (copy)

Carnival Panorama is scheduled to start sailing out of Long Beach this December.

Long Beach's Development Services Department has released a notice that it plans to file a "Mitigated Negative Declaration" to cover environmental issues related to Carnival Cruise Lines' expansion of the dock next to the Long Beach Cruise Terminal.

Carnival wants to expand the dock to accommodate its new Carnival Panorama, which is slated to replace Carnival Splendor taking cruises out of Long Beach. Panorama carries up to 4,008 passengers and is much larger than Splendor, with its capacity of 3,012.

A Mitigated Negative Declaration is a conclusion that an Environmental Impact Report is not necessary to allow a project. It is a relatively quick way to permit projects instead of conducting an EIR, which can take a year or more.

"The Mitigated Negative Declaration is based on the finding that, by implementing the identified mitigation measures, the project’s potential significant adverse impacts will be reduced to a less than significant level," the Notice of Intent says. "The reasons to support such a finding are documented by an Initial Study prepared by the City."

That study, according to Long Beach groups Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP) and the Sierra Club Los Cerritos Wetlands Task Force, is flawed because there is not adequate mitigation for potential harm to kelp beds, marine mammals, birds, water quality and, "adverse Environmental Impacts Carnival Cruise ships will have, not only on the Port of Long Beach, but on the entire Ocean."

Carnival's expansion calls for dredging 33,250 cubic yards of sediment to deepen and expand the existing berth. The report says that there is some contamination in the sediment, but that it qualifies to be dumped at the Ocean Dredge Material Disposal Site 11 miles southwest of the terminal. It also calls for in-the-water construction to create infrastructure to handle the larger ship that would include driving piles into the ocean floor.

There also would be significant expansion to the parking garage next to the Geodesic Dome that houses the terminal. Carnival expanded its operations inside the dome in 2017 to take over most of that space. The expansion would accommodate more than 600 more cars for a total of 2,055 spaces.

That, according to CARP, would require removing trees used as nesting places for aquatic birds. Plans do not call for adequate protection, CARP argues.

CARP and the wetlands task force also join a national group, Friends of the Earth, in a protest that the notification of the project wasn't adequate. This release is, in fact, a recirculated notice of intent; the first notice was circulated in June.

The opponents' protest letter also questions why the project does not require specific California Coastal Commission approval. The city's Planning Manager, Christopher Koontz, said the expansion is part of the Harbor Master Plan, meaning no additional Coastal Commission action is necessary.

The comment period is open now for the recirculated notice of intent to issue a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project. That notice, as well as the entire Initial Study, is available at the Development Services Department, on the third floor of City Hall, 411 W. Ocean Blvd.; the Alamitos Neighborhood Library, 1836 E. Third St.; and at www.longbeach.gov/lbds/planning/environmental/reports/.

The comment period runs until Sept. 26. Comments should be sent to Amy L. Harbin, AICP, Planner, at City Hall or emailed to her at amy.harbin@longbeach.gov.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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