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Still only at the beginning of a long process to determine the impacts of potentially tearing down or altering the Long Beach Breakwater, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week presented an update on the research done so far.

The Army Corps is leading a three-year study formally known as the East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study, and the project is in its initial phases. Army Corps engineers provided an update that outlined the next steps they’ll be taking to complete their estimated $3 million report.

Last Wednesday’s meeting was the latest in a roughly 25-year debate on whether to tear down the breakwater. Work toward the current study began in 2009, and city officials have said they expect its results to lead to concrete plans to tear down or modify the wall.

The Long Beach Chapter of Surfrider Foundation and others, including Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, have argued that the breakwater could be lowered or eliminated to improve beach water quality and return waves to Long Beach. Others argue that the breakwater continues to protect the Port of Long Beach and homes along The Peninsula, in addition to limiting erosion caused by storm surges.

A tentative plan is expected to be unveiled in mid-2017 and a final review of the project’s feasibility is anticipated by the end of 2018. A Chief of Engineers report would be the final step before the project could move into the design phase in 2019.

On Wednesday, the Army Corps released a list of 12 measures to be further defined and researched by key stakeholders such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The broad list of measures includes: the rocky reef habitat; near shore intertidal zone rocky/sandy habitat; creating a sandy-bottom eelgrass habitat; beds for oysters and other filter feeders; sandy bottom restoration; kelp habitat atop rocky reef; modify or lower breakwater; beach sand management; sandy/rocky island bird habitat; estuary/other coastal wetland; underwater contouring cut/fill; and the L.A. River training wall.

The list is broad, but it already has been condensed from more than 200 potential measures identified during public comment, according to Manager of Government Affairs Diana Tang.

“We’re still very much in the early stages of the project,” Tang said, noting that the key stakeholders will help first, then the public will be able to provide further input in about a year.

The Army Corps also is working on alternative plans for use in modeling; conducting water and water circulation modeling; developing and running a habitat evaluation model; running Cost-Effectiveness/Incremental Cost Analysis (CEICA); identifying a final array of alternatives; identifying a Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP); and public review of a draft integrated feasibility report/EIS-EIR.

Earlier this year, Army Corps representative Eduardo T. DeMesa said the study would stretch from Huntington Beach to the Los Angeles River, emphasizing impacts on San Pedro Bay and the Seal Beach Naval Station. He said the study’s parameters put a limit on what the Army Corps could do.

Constraints listed in the agreement include “the study will not reduce maritime operational capacity in the East San Pedro Bay that is currently available to the Port of Long Beach, United States Navy and THUMS oil islands. Study measures will not increase shoreline erosion, wave related damages and coastal flooding to existing residences, public infrastructure, marinas, other structures and recreational beaches. The study will also seek to minimize impacts to flood risk management operations on the Los Angles River, and incorporated sea level rise adaptations.”

For more information on the breakwater study, visit www.longbeach.gov/citymanager/tidelands/bay-ecosystem-study.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

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Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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