Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Army Corps to Move Forward on SoCal Ports Breakwater Study

The United States Army Corps of Engineers on Monday announced it will move forward with a four-year $8 million feasibility study researching possible reconfigurations of portions of the federal breakwater that protects anchorages for the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The Army Corps study follows on the heels of a city-sponsored study that listed numerous possible reconfigurations of the 2.5-mile-long eastern-most section of the breakwater ranging in cost from $10 million to more than $300 million.

The main focus of the study to be conducted by the Army Corps will be to determine if the breakwater could be removed or reconfigured to improve water quality and recreational opportunities on the city beaches without negatively impacting port operations. Built in three sections between 1899 and 1949 by the Army Corps, the more than eight-mile-long federal breakwater is the longest man-made breakwater in the world. Built from west to east, the western-most section protects the Port of Los Angeles and the middle section protects the Port of Long Beach.

The eastern-most section, started in 1941 and completed in 1949, faces the city beaches--once renowned for their surf--and was built to provide U.S. Navy vessels with protected anchorages when the city was a key port for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The area behind the eastern-most section of the breakwater, known as Long Beach Harbor, is now used by the Southern California ports as protected anchorages.

The same section of the breakwater severely diminished wave action and cleansing water currents within Long Beach Harbor, leaving city beaches dirty and unpopular compared to beaches further down the coast and just outside the protective shadow of the breakwater.

Since the Navy departed Long Beach in 1995, opponents of the breakwater have called it unnecessary. Proponents of keeping the breakwater as-is have criticized the cost or altering the breakwater and possible impact on port operations.

The city will be required to provide half of the estimated $8 million cost of the Army Corps study, though some of Long Beach's contribution will be "services-in-kind," reducing the city's cash contribution to just over $3.3 million, according to city officials.

The city's recent study on the breakwater found that bringing back surfable wave action and improved water quality to the city beaches could reap the city more than $52 million a year in increased tourism dollars.