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Environment: Danger to Pier From Canyon

March 09, 1995

The Redondo Beach pleasure pier is back in business and beckons upscale commercial investors. Such are the hopes of city officials. The $10.5-million reconstruction, thanks to us generous taxpayers, replaces a major portion of the pier destroyed seven years ago by storm and fire. Add a few million more for upscale development, the pier will represent a big-bucks asset to the city.

The restored pier and the adjacent, fully developed Redondo-King Harbor still are in serious conflict with Mother Nature!

Starting in the late 1880s with Wharf No. 1, it and subsequent piers and shorefront structures historically have been subjected to damage from severe winter storms, the latest occurring in 1988.

Cause of this damage can be directed specifically to the submarine Redondo Canyon, which points toward the pier-harbor area. At its mouth three miles seaward, its depth is 1,000 feet. At its apex, approaching the pier-harbor, its depth is only 60 feet.

Thus when winter-wind waves and tidal waves occur, great hydraulic pressure is generated within the narrowing, V-shaped canyon. This force impacts directly against the pier front and against the breakwater.

In pre-Redondo Beach times, a backwash, which was located just south and in back of the Edison power plant, absorbed much of the severe wave force. This same backwash created salt beds for the benefit of the natives and wildlife and later allowed establishment of one of the first industries of Redondo Beach.

Alas, in the early 1900s this backwash was plugged to increase shorefront development. Ever since then, Redondo Beach periodically has suffered frontage damage. This occurs when local conditions of ocean swells generated from storm gales in the Pacific combine with high wind, high tide and atmospheric low pressure.

As long as the Redondo Canyon exists in the Santa Monica Bay, any shorefront structure in the area is vulnerable. That unique storm combination may not be next year or in the next 10 years, but probably within 50 years.

Redondo Beach should recognize this phenomenon of nature and seek in its master plan to reduce development rather than to over-develop its shorefront. Better yet, unplug the backwash!

JOHN T. HALES

Hermosa Beach

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