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Long Beach Decides Not to Consider Breakwater Changes, Citing Security

Ocean: Council rejects a study that would have sought ways to improve water quality and surf.


Saying that security is more important than surf, the Long Beach City Council has voted against requesting a federal study about reconfiguring the Long Beach Breakwater.

The breakwater, a 2-mile-long stone barrier, was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to reduce the size and force of incoming waves. Located about 2 1/2 miles offshore, it is the easternmost of three breakwaters that protect the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The 8-1 vote late Tuesday night came after lengthy public comment and council debate. Several council members cited the current wartime climate and concerns about possible threats from seaborne terrorists as reasons for not asking the corps to study changing the federally owned breakwater.

"We are at war right now, and security is very important," said Councilwoman Jackie Kell. "The breakwater staying the way it is is a security measure."

Proponents of a study said that altering the breakwater could improve water quality and wave action on local beaches, drawing more tourist dollars to the area.

Opponents said the breakwater protects beachfront homes from storms and shelters container ships in the Port of Long Beach, a major source of revenue.

The area's three breakwaters funnel all incoming ships to two entry points: Queen's Gate at Long Beach Harbor and Angels Gate at Los Angeles Harbor. Otherwise, they must travel to waters near Seal Beach to enter the harbor.

The sole vote for the study came from Vice Mayor Dan Baker, who introduced it.

Baker said the study would have been the first step in an extended process before any possible changes to the breakwater. He promised to reintroduce the issue at a later date when security worries may have subsided.

"It's very clear to me that emotion and lack of information and unwillingness to challenge the status quo prevailed," Baker said.

Fred Caver, director of civil works for the Army Corps of Engineers, said in an interview Wednesday that the corps' main interest is ensuring safe navigation into the ports.

"We don't have any interest in changing the breakwater at this point because as far as we know the project is functioning as it was intended," he said.

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