A concept report released Wednesday on the feasibility of building a second entrance to San Diego Bay calls for further study of key engineering, environmental and financial questions.
The study, produced by the Second Harbor Entrance Project Inc., a group of South Bay civic and business leaders supporting the entrance, offered no timetable for the project, which is estimated to cost $200 million. Instead, the report acknowledges that many problems must be resolved.
Environmental concerns include what to do with Mexican sewage that is dumped into the Tijuana River, which empties into the ocean near Imperial Beach.
Funding Issues Need Addressing
Funding for the project also needs to be addressed. Ideally, the study envisions the San Diego Unified Port District as the project's local sponsor to arrange for local, state and federal funding.
Port District spokesman Dan Wilkens said the port helped finance the SHEP concept study, but he declined to comment on the report. "We have no comment because we haven't read the report yet."
As proposed by the SHEP board, the entrance would be carved out of the Silver Strand at Emory Basin, near the southern end of the peninsula, or Crown Cove, which is closer to Coronado. Besides the cost of the proposed waterway, the study said, a bridge on California 75, which links Imperial Beach with Coronado, would have to be built at an estimated cost of $200 million. An alternative to the bridge would be a tunnel crossing costing $250 million.
Although the report did not include a timetable, SHEP Executive Director Larry Peeples estimated that it will be at least one more year before a second study can be completed. Assuming that the project is given the green light, and barring lawsuits by opponents, Peeples said that all environmental reports could be written and approved within three years. Construction could begin by 1991 and be completed in two years, he added.
Maze of Agencies to Be Involved
However, the report also notes that as many as 23 local, state and federal agencies would probably be involved in the planning of the project, from the California Coastal Commission to the National Park Service. The project would be built on state-administered land, and so far the Coastal Commission has not expressed opposition.
"We don't have any inherent problems with the proposal as we've seen it, but there are still a number of issues that have to be explored and resolved, like public access, wildlife habitats and tidal flushing," said Milt Phegley, local ports coordinator for the state Coastal Commission. "The project is not something that we have taken a position on either way. We're as interested in a feasibility study as anyone else."
Peeples said that a computer model of the project has been done, but that SHEP is now looking for financing to build a physical model--complete with tidal hydraulics.
The idea of building a second harbor entrance was first discussed 50 years ago by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a visit to San Diego. In the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers built a 2,500-square-foot model of the bay, which showed that the new entrance would improve the bay's tidal flushing without eroding the deep-water channels.
But Army engineers determined that the project would not be cost-effective and abandoned the idea. The concept report lists the Corps of Engineers as one of the lead agencies that would have to be included in the project.
As proposed by the SHEP board, the southern entrance would be about 20 feet deep and about 500 feet wide. The entrance channel would extend about 1,000 feet into the ocean.