Viper 640 worlds (copy)

Alamitos Bay YC's  "Chance V" with Helmsman Kevin McCarthy in the center of the frame during the 2019 Viper 640 Worlds taking place in San Pedro Bay.

Army Corps of Engineers officials will meet online next Tuesday with members of the Long Beach Boat Owners Association and other stakeholders to talk about a plan to add rocky reefs and kelp beds along the Long Beach shore.

The proposal, called the San Pedro Bay EcoSystem Restoration Plan, still is in the study phase. It is the culmination of a nearly four-year process that began with advocates of removing or altering the breakwater south of Long Beach. In November 2019, the Army Corps released its draft report eliminating breakwater changes as an option, but suggesting the ecosystem could be improved and beach erosion slowed with reefs and kelp beds.

On Dec. 11, 2020, the California Coastal Commission reviewed the draft report and its preferred alternative. That alternative puts a series of small reefs in front of the beach from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier to the end of the Peninsula and the jetty that creates the entrance to Alamitos Bay. It also adds two larger offshore rocky reefs just southwest of the Alamitos Bay entrance, and a series of kelp beds farther out from the entrance.

In comments to the Coastal Commission and in emails, boat owners say the kelp beds in particular would interfere with both sailboat racing and recreational boaters.

"The Corps proposed creating reef structures by dumping rock in the bay, creating eel grass beds, and hold-fast points for what they hope would be large kelp beds," Dave Booker, an LBBOA member, said in an email. "But the proposed placement of these present loss of use for some area, and new risks to boaters entering and leaving Alamitos Bay."

Tuesday's virtual meeting, at 7 p.m. on the WebEx platform, is designed to get that type of feedback, according to an email statement from Eileen Takata, lead planner for the East San Pedro Ecosystem Restoration project, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District.

"The purpose of the upcoming boating and navigation stakeholder workshop is to discuss Alternative 4A (the Recommended Plan, which is described in the Draft Report as the Tentatively Selected Plan), its constraints and necessary ecological designs and functions, and to discuss the boating communities’ concerns," Takata said.

Takata also said changes could still be made, including during the next engineering phase. Further, it's not certain anything will be done until money is found to do it. When the draft report was released, this alternative was estimated to cost $161 million to complete.

"The Corps is currently in the process of finalizing the conceptual level design of the Recommended Plan for the Final Report, anticipated to be completed this year," Takata wrote. "During the next phase of the project, Pre-construction Engineering and Design (or PED phase), design and site layout refinements to the reefs can continue in coordination with stakeholders. It is anticipated that the PED phase of the study will not be initiated until completion of the feasibility study and receipt of PED funds."

San Pedro Bay, the fate of the breakwater, and erosion of the Peninsula beach have been studied for decades. In 1998, the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation was formed with the express intent of eliminating or altering the breakwater to bring waves back to Long Beach.

There were several preliminary studies, including one by the city saying waves would improve the water quality and bring up to $52 million annually in local spending. But an Army Corps feasibility study in the early 2000s said the cost would be prohibitive.

But in 2016, the Corps streamlined its study process and city officials lobbied for another, more in-depth study. The result was a 3-3-3 study proposal — three years for $3 million to complete a 3-inch-thick study. The city agreed to pay most of the $3 million, and when a first look at alternatives dropped any changes to the breakwater, was able to require a breakwater option remain in the final draft.

Impacts ranging from damage to the Port of Long Beach to disruption of operations at the Seal Beach Naval Station were cited when the Corps again declined to look at breakwater changes in the draft report.

Tuesday's meeting can be accessed at usace1.webex.com/meet/eileen.k.takata or by calling 1-844-800-2712, access code 199 849 5629.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

Load comments