|Like the sign says|
By Joshua Frank
Perhaps you've driven past them at night: several towering panels lit up like a psychedelic art installation, with a 45-foot waterfall gushing down the side and onto the boulder-strewn, pedestal-shaped, very-much-manmade island. The brightly painted structures seem harmless enough--if a bit out of place several hundred feet offshore from Long Beach's affluent Bluff Park neighborhood--but what goes on behind the palm-lined façade is profoundly controversial and potentially very dangerous.
Built in 1965, the four THUMS islands--so named for the companies that first developed the sites: Texaco, Humble, Unocal, Mobil and Shell--were designed by esteemed landscape architect Joseph Linesch, who had a knack for turning blight into eye candy. While Long Beach's Gas & Oil Department (LBGO) operates the islands, a wholly owned subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum (known as Occidental Long Beach Inc.) is contracted to perform the work of extracting fossil fuels from beneath the ocean floor.
The THUMS islands include portions of Pier J in the Port of Long Beach, and were constructed from a goliath supply of stone from Catalina Island--640,000 tons of it--along with 3.2 million cubic yards of sand from Long Beach Harbor. The purpose was to exploit the vast reserves of the Wilmington Oil Field, which stretches 13 miles long and 3 miles wide, from onshore San Pedro to offshore Seal Beach. Since it was first discovered in 1932, 6,150 wells have been drilled in the oil field, with nearly 1,550 pumps still active.More »