August 17, 2010
By Reed Fujii
Record Staff Writer
August 17, 2010 12:00 AM
STOCKTON – Highlighting the potential for job creation and economic stimulus, Stockton port officials celebrated Monday the acquisition of the last 60 acres of Rough and Ready Island in ceremonies outside the former Navy base’s commander’s house.
Stockton native and a top Navy civilian executive Roger Natsuhara lauded the port’s success at developing the island since taking over the first and largest portion 10 years ago.
“This is truly one of the gems we talk about back in the Pentagon,” he said.
Transferring surplus military property to local communities is the best way to stimulate development and employment, he said.
“They know better what to do with it than we do back in Washington.”
Steven Herum, port commission chairman, outlined the strides made since the initial handover of 1,155 acres of 1,400 acres in all.
The port has put $100 million into infrastructure improvements, opening traffic access to Highway 4 to the south, upgrading rail and electrical systems, and dredging years of accumulated silt from along the wharf to bring in more and bigger ships.
Those efforts have helped the port export more than 1.5 million metric tons of rice to Asia via the docks at Rough and Ready Island, as well as receive steel from China, Japan and Korea, lumber from New Zealand, fertilizer from Norway and windmill parts from Vietnam, Herum said.
Private companies also have responded to the opportunity, leasing land on the former base and investing more than $350 million in new facilities, generating more than 3,800 construction and permanent jobs at the port.
And more is to come, Herum promised.
“I believe the next 10 years will outpace the last 10 years in terms of job creation and economic process,” he said.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, among the signatories, said, “Rough and Ready Island is a tremendous resource for our entire community.”
“Transferring this facility to the port means the future, means jobs,” the Pleasanton Democrat said.
Also in attendance were a wide selection of area government, civic, labor and business leaders, as well as former port officials involved in the 30-year transfer process.
Among those was former port director Alexander Krygsman, who wrote the Navy in 1979 asking that if the communications station just west of the port were ever mothballed, his agency could get the property.
“It’s fantastic,” he said Monday at seeing his effort come to full resolution.
He recalled that at the time he had no idea if the port would ever receive any part of Rough and Ready.
“I didn’t know how long it would take, because that’s when the Navy (base) was still active,” Krygsman said.
Natsuhara, an Edison High School graduate and Navy veteran, who is the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, noted his area relatives in attendance at the ceremonies, including his father, Jack Natsuhara; his brother, Stockton dentist Dr. Ken Natsuhara; and his sister, Elaine Watanabe.