A flyer for the June 3 paddle out event. Photo: Surfrider Foundation Long Beach
June is Breakwater Awareness Month and for the eighth year it will kickoff with a paddle out ceremony in memory of the waves that organizers hope will someday return to Long Beach if a feasibility study currently being conducted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) determines that the wall can be removed or augmented.
The ceremony is being hosted by the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a group that has advocated for the sinking of the breakwater, both to bring waves back to the shores of Long Beach but also to improve the underwater ecosystem. Paddling out in memory of the waves is the group’s annual protest against the wall that was completed in the 1940s.
Surfrider’s annual paddle out has been co-hosted by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell in past years with O’Donnell joining surfers in the water to raise awareness for the breakwater. However, O’Donnell is not listed as an attendee for this year’s event and a call to his office was not answered due to the Memorial Day holiday.
However, this year’s paddle out will come near the halfway mark of a three-year study that was initiated by an agreement between the city and the USACE in 2015 that seeks to explore whether any alterations to the wall can be made, and if they can, what the potential impacts would be on the beach and the surrounding structures.
A scoping meeting hosted by the USACE in April 2016 highlighted the divide among the community on what to do with the walls that have protected the shore from erosion and harbor operations from rough seas for the past 70 years.
Representatives from the government noted that while modifying or completely removing portions of the seawalls would certainly improve water flow to the bay and improve sea life habitats by more quickly removing pollutants dumped into the water by the Los Angeles River it could impact homes. By default the study is being approached from an environmental angle otherwise the USACE could not have undertaken the effort.
Residents and home owners association representatives expressed their fears that in doing so it would also open up their homes and businesses to potential flooding and other effects expected to be brought on by any future rises in sea levels.
The $3 million study is expected to be completed by 2019 at which time the city can act on any conclusions found regarding potential changes that could or could not be made to the breakwater. However, that timeline may have hit a snag.
In March, the Daily 49er reported that the USACE had encountered setbacks in acquiring “necessary technical support,” including the start of the hydrodynamic modeling which would study the motion of water on the coastline. The story quoted Eileen Takata, a lead planner for the project, as saying that without the hydrodynamic modeling it would not be feasible for the study to move forward.
The setback may impact the timeline but is not expected to hike up the cost of the study which is being split by the city and the USACE. However, it could push back the next scheduled community meeting regarding the breakwater.
The Surfrider Foundation will host its own meeting on June 22 at MADE by Millworks as the second part to its Breakwater Awareness Month activities. The general meeting is expected to include an update on the feasibility study and is slated to run from 7:00PM to 8:30PM. MADE is located at 235 Pine Avenue.
The paddle out ceremony will be held Saturday, June 3 at Granada Beach and will run from 11:00AM to 1:00PM. Granada Beach is located at 4020 Olympic Plaza.