Above and below, right: file photos.
Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell’s “Breakwater Awareness Month” is due to hit the shores of Long Beach yet again this month in partnership with the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, kicking off with a “Paddle Out in Memory of the Waves” event this Saturday.
From 11:00AM to 2:00PM, Long Beach residents are encouraged to bring their boards to the beach at Granada and Ocean Boulevard and enjoy food, entertainment and a paddle race.
“What’s neat about [this] weekend’s event is that it’s something people can do to keep the effort alive,” O’Donnell told the Post.
He has long advocated for reconfiguring the breakwater, hosting awareness months since 2012. While O’Donnell doesn’t advocate removing the breakwater in its entirety, he said reconfiguring it may provide Long Beach with an opportunity to improve recreational opportunities at the beach, return clean water to the waterfront and positively impact the economy.
“Did you know that before World War II, Long Beach was the Waikiki of Southern California?” the Surfrider website states. The site delves into the history of the Long Beach breakwater, which was created by the federal government and is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Construction on the Long Beach federal breakwater began in 1941 and was completed in 1949 after pausing during World War II to allow the port and homes along the waterfront protections during unpredictable oceanfront storms.
The Surfrider Foundation and O’Donnell maintain that the lack of waves allows pollutants to stagnate in Long Beach waters. This, coupled with a lack recreational opportunities that would be boosted by waves (like surfing), leads to a lack of utilization of beaches, said O’Donnell.
“On an 84 degree day, you can look at the beaches, and no one is there,” said O’Donnell. He said the question was a matter of how to increase beach utilization and improve the water quality while also maintaining protections for the port.
“Anything we do, we want to make sure homes and maritime trade are protected,” he said.
O’Donnell, the Surfrider Foundation, other environmental groups and Mayor Robert Garcia have honed in on the possibility of reconfiguring the federal breakwater as an important issue. Garcia broached the topic on his first trip to Washington, D.C. last January.
In 2013, the Long Beach City Council voted to move forward on a Reconnaissance study that the federal government “blessed,” according to O’Donnell. The city and federal government are now moving forward with a feasibility study, according to O’Donnell, which will include computer modeling to determine possible impacts of breakwater reconfiguration.
Mayor Garcia will appear at a later event that is part of Breakwater Awareness Month—a June 25 community meeting at MADE in Long Beach. The event is set to take place from 7:00PM to 8:30PM and will feature numerous raffle prizes, food and drink.
“It used to be the radicals were the ones who said, ‘Let’s take a look at this,’” said O’Donnell of a possible breakwater reconfiguration. “Now the radicals are the ones who want to maintain the status quo.”