LONG BEACH - City leaders are working to speed up the long-sought reconfiguration of the Long Beach breakwater in hopes of reducing coastal pollution and giving new life to beach recreation.
Long Beach would contribute half of the federal government's share of the cost of a study on altering the seawall, under a proposal placed on next Tuesday's City Council meeting agenda.
The proposal by City Manager Pat West would authorize him to add up to $750,000 to the $1.5 million Long Beach has already set aside for the breakwater study.
Long Beach would also advance $50,000 to revise the study's parameters following an agreement last year to use the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' new "3x3x3" guidelines. The model requires feasibility studies conducted by the Army Corps to cost no more than $3 million, take no longer than three years to complete and be contained in a report of a reasonable size, in a binder about 3 inches thick.
The city's extra investment would be paid from its Tidelands Fund, a largely oil-revenue-supported fund that can only be used for certain coastal projects.
The Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over the breakwater, which was built between 1941 and 1949. It was designed to protect the Port of Long Beach and surrounding coastal areas by stilling the waters.
Robert Palmer, chairman of the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said that's a job the wall has done only too well.
He praised city staff and the council for their attention to the issue.
"That we're moving closer is really exciting," he said Wednesday.
Breakwater modification supporters say altering the sea wall will improve wave action and water circulation, enhancing recreational opportunities and reducing pollution. Some beachfront residents are concerned a removal of the breakwater will cause beach erosion or allow flooding.
Councilman Patrick O'Donnell said in a statement that modifying the breakwater is about cleaner water and a better local economy.
"Without a doubt, the new Army Corps policy will enable us to move forward faster than we had previously anticipated," O'Donnell said.
"This next step could lead to improved water quality and increased recreation on our beaches. Clean water equals more visitors and more visitors equal a better economy."
The previous Army Corps study plan could have taken four years to complete and cost $8.3 million.
According to city officials, the revamped study would be more limited in scope, but the Army Corps will conduct an extensive analysis, including wave and water-quality modeling, economic and environmental factors, engineering and design, geotechnical studies, and review of tidal elevations and sediment transport, among other areas.
Even with the potential concession next week, city officials do not expect to hear from the federal government for nine to 12 months while it goes through its decision-making process on the new study.
"We think there's a very good chance they're going to accept this funding agreement because it is in their interest to do so," said Tom Modica, the city's director of Government Affairs and Strategic Initiatives.