Breakwater study to get more expensive before environmental documents’ public release

The Long Beach City Council could vote next week to approve an increase the contract amount with the United States Army Corps of Engineers which is conducting a study of the breakwater and potential options to remove or changing portions of it.

When the deal was signed by Mayor Robert Garcia in January 2016 the price tag for the study was pegged at $3 million over three years with the city and the Army Corps splitting the cost.

The study, which is now heading toward the four-year anniversary of that signing, could see the city’s share of cost grow by over $1 million if the council votes to approve the $560,000 increase Tuesday night.

Increasing the contract amount would bring the city’s share of the study to nearly $2.9 million as the study approaches another public release of documents this month. The increase in the contract is due to the city’s desire to explore two alternatives outside the original scope of the study, ones that could potentially remove portions of the breakwater.

Breakwater study could be expanded as city eyes other alternatives

“The City has long had an interest in studying these alternatives to answer community questions on the viability of a reconfiguration and the impact it would have on water quality, circulation, infrastructure, and improved habitat restoration,” Director of Public Works Craig Beck wrote in a memo to the mayor and City Council.

“Without the City prioritizing these local alternatives and identifying funding within the existing Study budget, those alternatives would not have been included in the Study that will be soon released to the public for their review and comments.”

The memo also states that an environmental impact statement and impact report could be released for public review on Nov. 22 with two public meetings planned for December.

A spokesperson for the department said that the dates for the meetings in December are still being worked out but that the funding for the increase would come out of the city’s Tidelands Fund, not the general fund.

Reconfiguring the breakwater has been a goal of the city as it tries to increase wave activity and revive a beach that once was known as a draw for surfers and tourists alike. After the installation of the breakwater in 1940s to protect military and port operations the waves disappeared and so did a lot of beachgoers.

The Army Corps’ involvement requires that any changes to the breakwater be necessitated by an improvement to the water habitat or overall health of the ecosystem in ocean off the Long Beach coastline.

Removing portions of the breakwater to allow better water circulation could help cycle out the pollution that is dumped into the ocean by the Los Angeles River and remains stagnant due to lack of wave activity.

However, lack of wave activity has helped protect homes on the Alamitos Peninsula, which are vulnerable to flooding during high tides, as well as provide calm waters for the Port of Long Beach and the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach.

The city is hoping to find an option that can check all of those boxes as well as make the beach more enticing for visitors.

Last year, Garcia unveiled six options for the breakwater which ranged from adding eel grass and kelp beds, to constructing rocky reefs, sand islands and even “notching” part of the breakwater to increase water circulation. Another option was to do nothing.

City releases possible plans for Long Beach’s breakwater

A city memo sent in June to the City Council said that it wanted to further explore the notching options for the western portion of the breakwater which sits closer to the port. The eastern portion of the breakwater has already been deemed off limits because of its proximity to the weapons station which could negatively impact national security.

That memo also stated that going forward the city would be on the hook for any kind of extensions and costs incurred by the project as the Army Corps had already met its original $1.5 million obligation.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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