Environment & Science

Long Beach grants breakwater study $4 million

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The city of Long Beach has agreed to consider what it might take to remove its breakwater. The City Council has approved an agreement to share the cost of that study with the federal government.

Long Beach and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will each pay more than $4 million to study the feasibility of removing an eight-mile long sea wall.

The city's government affairs advisor Tom Modica told council members about harms to the city's shore associated with the breakwater. "There's impact to harbor water circulation. There's reduced transmissivity, which is the water clarity. There's contaminants in the sediment. There's contaminants in the water column and there's trash and floating debris, as we know," Modica continued. "There's also recreation problems. There's impaired swimming due to debris and there is a lack of wave activity that other beaches enjoy."

Long Beach and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are agreeing to each kick in around $4 million to explore whether and how to remove an eight-foot wall. The structure keeps waves away from the shore but also traps pollution and trash. Some people who work at the Port of Long Beach say they're worried that removing the wall will change wave action and make the harbor complex less attractive to shippers.

Randy Gordon from the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce said that spending millions on a study now is the wrong idea at the wrong time. "During these challenging economic times we need to remain focused on immediate investments that instantly retain and create jobs and improve our quality of life," Gordon said.

The Army Corps has maintained the breakwater since the end of World War II. Colonel Tom Magness said the Corps recommended funding its half of the study earlier this week. Most people who spoke to the City Council encouraged Long Beach to do the same thing.

Longtime local restaurateur John Morris said the project was long overdue. "I don't think you're going to see much more growth at the port when they finish this last three to four projects coming up. And I see this as a golden opportunity, as the colonel said, to form a partnership, and the partnership should really be thank you for what you put up with for the last 40 years," Morris said.

The council voted unanimously to pay for its share of the study. The study won't begin until federal authorities appropriate the necessary money. Modica said delays in Congress could mean work on the breakwater report doesn't begin until next year.