LOS ANGELES — In recent days off the coast of Long Beach, where the barges take anchor, a layer of brown hung over the horizon.

Those idle barges have strangled an already beleaguered supply chain and prompted local U.S. Reps. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., and Josh Harder, D-Calif., to call for a task force to investigate and provide solutions to Congress.

What You Need To Know

  • Barges at SoCal ports have persisted for weeks

  • U.S. Reps. Steel and Harder have called for a task force to investigate and offer solutions for the delays

  • The task force, per their recommendation, would assess the costs of the backlog and open a full investigation into the timeline of events that led to and followed the Oct. 3 oil spill

  • Democrats have called for a halt to future oil leases in federal waters off California and Alaska, while some Republicans have focused on tightening oversight

Supply chain woes have been exacerbated by the recent holdup in shipping, made even worse by docking delays for barges at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Local lawmakers have called for changes to and closer observance of regulations and rules for the mega container ships that make daily ingress and egress into Southern California docks.  

The oil spill on Oct. 3, which was reportedly caused by an anchor, hit Orange County’s coastline cities hardest, largely covered by Steel’s 48th district. She has visited the spill sites and called for an investigation. Local congressional Democrats like Katie Porter and Alan Lowenthal have also called for investigations. Democrats have issued a slate of proposals to curb future oil drilling, while congressional Republicans, like Steel, have focused on policies to bolster rules, regulations and enforcement.

“We have a crisis at our ports,” said Rep. Steel. “American families want us to ease this backlog and get these ships moving and out of our waters. Without leadership we will have another crisis on our hands, and it’s time for action.”

The task force plan follows another of Steel’s recommendations, the SHIP Act or Stopping Hazardous Incidents in the Pacific Act of 2021. That proposal aims to ban cargo ships from taking anchor too close to the port and would have lasted 180 days. Now, ships sit off the coast waiting for the call to unload.

Supply chain problems and cost run-ups for items like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have surfaced to front pages and top-of-the-hour TV news segments.

“Our families are facing rising prices at the grocery store while our farmers are struggling to get their products to market and we know exactly why – the crisis at our ports,” Harder said. “Democrats and Republicans agree that we need to get prices under control and let our folks get back to shipping their products around the globe. This bill puts politics aside so we can actually address this crisis.”

The task force, in Steel and Harder’s proposal, would look into the backlog at the port, how Congress can address delays and half a dozen other issues.