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BREAKWATER BREAKDOWN: Marine Layer

Published 8/15/2007 on The District Weekly

While the Long Beach City Manager’s office was snail-mailing a “notice of funding” letter to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting a reconnaissance study of the Breakwater, another alarming ocean water-quality report seemed to emphasize the need for such a study. Tests by the National Resources Defense Council found that Long Beach has five of the six most-contaminated beaches in Los Angeles County, echoing a May report by Heal the Bay that rated local waters the worst in California.

Despite the urgent reminder from Mother Nature, the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission’s Monday agenda did not include an item on partially funding the recon study, although Commission President Mario Cordero signaled that it would. Due to a scheduling conflict, the afternoon meeting was moved to a morning time slot and the subject was bumped, possibly until early September.

The procedure for undertaking such a reconnaissance study is a bureaucratic marine layer. Apparently, determining the cost-effectiveness of reconfiguring a miles-long wall of wave-blocking boulders isn’t done every day.

Eighth District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich says the study will consider four components—ecosystem restoration, flood storm protection, navigable waters, and ports and coastal protection—but noted that the city, despite its $100,000 contribution to fully fund the study, must adhere to the Corps of Engineers’ strict standards.

What are those standards? In addition to promising the money, that’s what the August letter from the city manager’s office wanted to know. It asked the Corps to flesh out specific regulations of the study and to identify the kind of documentation that might be needed from the city to proceed.

Perhaps complicating things a bit is the fact that the city manager’s office—which is assigned to handle Breakwater correspondence—hasn’t had a permanent city manager since the end of May. Police Chief Anthony W. Batts is serving on an interim basis while the council interviews candidates. Meanwhile, Deputy City Manager Reginald Harrison (who oversees the Parks, Recreation, and Marine Department, among others) is handling Breakwater issues.

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