Los Cerritos Wetlands (copy)

Working oil wells on the Los Cerritos Wetlands.

A proposal to move oil operations off most of the degraded Los Cerritos Wetlands in southeast Long Beach has picked up speed with a new firm created to oversee the project and a Notice of Preparation issued — the first step to completing an Environmental Impact Report.

Synergy Oil and Gas, LLC, owns the 154 acres of wetlands north of Pacific Coast Highway and west of Second Street. It currently is operating 53 wells there, as well as some wells on city property east of Second Street.

Synergy CEO John McKeown announced last year that he wanted to restore those wetlands through a mitigation bank. To do that, he wants to move all oil operations to the Pumpkin Patch east of the Marketplace shopping center and five acres controlled by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority north of Studebaker Road.

Last Saturday, McKeown issued a press release saying a new company called Beach Oil Minerals Partners, LLC, had been formed and tasked with overseeing the wetlands project. McKeown also is the CEO of that company.

“Creating Beach Oil Minerals Partners is critical to the success of the Los Cerritos Wetlands restoration and oil consolidation project,” McKeown said in the release. “Forming this new entity allows for a much-needed infusion of capital and resources necessary to ensure the success of this project and the sustained preservation of the wetlands.”

At its April 21 meeting, the Long Beach City Council approved an agreement with Lyon Housing to have Lyon pay up to $132,000 a year for consultant Lisa Wise Consulting to shepherd the EIR on the project. Lyon Housing owns the Pumpkin Patch, where Synergy wants to build a new office building, warehouse and some oil storage at the rear of the property. There also would be some slant-drilled wells there to tap the oil field underneath the wetlands.

McKeon said that half of the 53 oil wells would be vacated within 20 years of operations starting on the Pumpkin Patch, along with removal of 95% of the surface pipeline currently on the site. The rest of the wells would be removed within 40 years, or sooner if the new wells caused the old wells to stop producing.

“We will be utilizing new technology that is cleaner, safer and more efficient than the older technology currently in use on site,” McKeown said. “The new wells increase the time of extraction and will be located in a well cellar, below grade and unseen to passersby — unlike the ‘horse heads’ currently bobbing up and down now.”

A public scoping meeting about the Notice of Preparation (NOP) explaining the proposal and the environmental review process is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, in the cafeteria at Kettering Elementary School, 550 Silvera Ave. The NOP also is available on the Development Services Department website at www.lbds.info under the planning/environmental reports tab.

The comment period for the NOP ends Friday, May 27. In addition to comments at the scoping meeting, written comments should be sent to craig.chalfant@longbeach.gov or mailed to Craig Chalfant, Planning Bureau, Development Services Department, City of Long Beach 333 W. Ocean Blvd. 5th Floor, Long Beach, CA 90802.

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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