It is doubtful that our Long Beach City Council and citizens would stand by and allow condo owners to cut off the roof of the downtown Aquarium to improve owner views. Yet, forces are in motion to remove or lower the height of the breakwater so surfers can surf bigger waves.
The rationale is that it would provide cleaner water, attract more people and improve spending within the city.
The reality is that, due to sand and sediment inside the breakwater, bigger waves would simply dirty up the water even more; the only benefit would be to surfers, and a few surfing competitions will not provide much economic input to our city.
The downtown Aquarium is home to hundreds of fish and marine wildlife. The breakwater has been there for more than 45 years and is home to thousands of fish, lobster, birds and other marine life. The only complaints about this environmental disaster in the making is from homeowners and businessmen concerned about flooding and beach erosion.
With almost $3 million of taxpayer money spent so far on "surveys," one wonders about the total cost to taxpayers if it actually proceeds as presented. Are taxpayers prepared for another "train to nowhere" project, anyone?
As a boater, fisherman and free diver in both inshore and offshore waters for more than 50 years, I can attest to the widespread damage to marine life that will occur should this ill-conceived plan go forward. To date, I seem to be the only voice speaking up against major environmental damage the underwater part of this project will create.
For starters, the top five feet of below-water rocks grow plankton. The plankton attracts thousands of bait fish feeding on small plankton particles washed from the rocks by waves and current.
In turn, thousands of near-surface baitfish attract larger fish, birds and seals who depend on bait for food and survival. During warm water El Nino years, the breakwater is the only source of massive amounts of baitfish for miles around. At other locations, the water becomes too warm and the baitfish disperse into deeper, colder waters to survive.
This removes baitfish from the food chain, as many species cannot locate the bait. The result is starving sea lions, seals and pelicans, who must rely on baitfish to survive.
It does not require more costly surveys to understand that removing the boulders will destroy the food source and shelter for many species of mammals, birds and fish.
As a free diver (no scuba tank), I have seen first-hand the numerous species of fish and lobster who reside in, or near, the boulders. There are black sea bass to 300 pounds, large calico bass, sheepshead to 30 pounds (a 28 pound mount is on my wall), as well as hundreds of smaller species who live in the rock caves.
During lobster season, lobster are caught by divers and hoop netters all along the breakwater. The largest "bugs" weigh up to thirteen pounds. It is also a prized location for catching halibut and white sea bass.
Various species of seabirds stop to rest on the rocks during their migrations. Seals and sea lions haul out on the breakwater, providing great viewing for the kids on sight-seeing excursions. Local boat captains and crews depend on sea life viewing for their livelihood.
Remove or reduce the breakwater and you remove the sea life. Once, a 9-foot shark swam by as I was spearfishing for white sea bass. The large boulders also provide good hiding spots for a diver!
Recently, our Mayor and Assemblyman (Patrick) O'Donnell expressed sadness that the removal project may not proceed due to opposition from the Army Corps of Engineers. There will be far greater sadness once local citizens realize the environmental damage this boondoggle will cause if not stopped. Not to mention more millions of cost that would be better spent on potholes and tree removal projects currently way behind due to budgeting issues.
During normal winter storms, I have seen 15-foot waves crashing over the top of the breakwater. Without an intact breakwater, the four-foot-high road protecting the downtown marina boats will not hold if one of the climate change storms hits Long Beach with a combination of super high tides, high wind, sustained rain and building waves. Boat damage claims will be in the millions should the city be held liable.
At present, Army Corps personnel and a few concerned citizens seem to be the only sane voices speaking up against this ill-conceived project. Me? I will be at all future public meetings, wherein, citizens can speak up and be heard; loud and clear. Hopefully, the First Amendment will ensure a good ending to a bad project.
Robert Ballew is a Long Beach resident.