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Council OKs Breakwater Study Funding…With Uncertainty Over Needed Fed’l Appropriation

(June 17, 2008) — The City Council voted 6-2 (DeLong, Lerch dissenting, Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal absent) tonight (June 17) to allocate up to $100,000 from LB's Tidelands Fund for a reconnaissance study to determine if there's a federal interest in reconfiguring the LB Breakwater (proponents say to restore some wave action and produce cleaner water).

The item had been agendized by Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich.

As previously reported by, $50,000 of the cost may be covered by a Coastal Conservancy grant IF Congress appropriates $30,000 for Corps of Engineers work on the project.

On questioning by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, city management confirmed that the Corps of Engineers will only accept a non-federally funded study (like this one) IF it's accompanied by a federal appropriation regarding the project…and the required Congressional appropriation hasn't been secured at this time.

Councilmembers O'Donnell and Gabelich were joined by Councimlan Andrews in speaking of the need to move ahead. A representative of the Surfrider Foundation also testified in support.

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske emphasized that although she was supportive of moving ahead, she wanted the requirement of a federal appropriation to be made publicly so there'd be no future questioning about what the Council did or didn't do.

Councilwoman Schipske also made a point previously noted by others: that even with after the Breakwater was constructed, LB still had surf [as late as the 1950s and 1960s]…leading her to suspect that LB's lack of surf now actually stems in large part from the Port's expansion of Pier J (the sprawling eastward extension visible off the downtown shoreline), not primarily from the Breakwater.

Councilman Gary DeLong acknowledged that it appeared to be the will of the Council majority to move ahead on the Breakwater study, and he respected that…but offered a substitute motion (seconded by Lerch) that proposed to apply for the Coastal Conservancy grant (to secure the grant by its end of June application deadline) while withholding the expenditure of city Tidelands money until the necessary federal appropriation was in place, if not by this fall (in the current Congress) then after Jan. 2009 (in a new Congress).

Councilman DeLong pointed out that in a worst case, LB could end up spending $100,000 without a required federal appropriation, producing a study that the Corps wouldn't accept. Councilman Lerch noted that he'd been among the original supporters of a Breakwater study (with former Councilman Baker) years ago. Councilman DeLong's motion failed 2-6 (with DeLong and Lerch the two "yes" votes).

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