Seal Beach Naval Weapons Stn Informed City of LB In Oct. 2018 That Modifying LB Breakwater Would Impact Navy's Mission, Risk Personnel And Vessels And Ability To Respond To Nat'l/Int'l Emergency; City Says The Alternatives With Robust Mitigation Measures,Are Still A Work In Progress And Will Be Shared With Navy As Part Of City's Ongoing Working Relationship
|(Feb. 8, 2019, 10:30 a.m.) -- A little over a week after the City of Long Beach held a press event (Sept. 24, 2018) to announce that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had agreed to evaluate two potential alternatives to reconfigure parts of the LB Breakwater (two 1,000 foot notches its western portion or removing about a third of its eastern portion) [LBREPORT.com coverage with VIDEO here), the Commanding Officer of the Navy's Seal Beach Weapons Station informed City of LB Public Works staff by letter that any modifications to the breakwater will impact the Navy's mission with increases in wave energy affecting vessel motion, increasing the risk to safety of personnel and damage to vessels and equipment which "would seriously impact the Navy's ability to respond during a time of national or international crisis."
In a three page letter dated Oct. 2, 2018 and directed to the City's Public Works Capital Project Coordinator Monica Der Gevorgian, the Commanding Officer of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, Captain N. J. Dahlke, wrote:
Any modifications to the breakwater will impact the Navy's mission due to the anticipated changes in wave energy and sea state. Potential alternatives would be cost-prohibitive and are unlikely to move forward due to public opposition. Impacts to operational readiness for response to national defense incidents cannot be quantified. The Navy must maintain year-round readiness and capability for ordinance and fuel transfer operations at the D8 explosives anchorage. Any modification to the breakwater would bring on increases in wave energy affecting vessel motion and increasing the risk to safety of personnel and damage to vessels and equipment. This unwanted effect would seriously impact the Navy's ability to respond during a time of national or international crisis.
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LBREPORT.com followed-up (Feb. 8, 2018) by contacting the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station to determine if the Oct. 2, 2018 letter still represented the Navy's current views on the matter. Public Affairs Officer/Base Spokesman Gregg Smith told LBREPORT.com that from the time the City of LB first began exploring possible breakwater reconfiguration, the Navy/Seal Beach Weapons station (under a prior Commanding Officer) had shared the Navy's concerns with the City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Spokesman Smith indicated that in the period since the Oct. 2, 2018 letter was sent, the Navy hadn't received any new information from the City or the Corps of Engineers on any new mitigation measures or seen any information that would change its position stated in the letter. He added that if the City or the Corps of Engineers has any ideas that might alleviate the Navy's concerns, the Navy would be glad to look at them, but it hasn't seen anything yet.
LBREPORT.com sought further this morning (Feb. 8) from City of Long Beach Manager of Government Affairs, Diana Tang. Ms. Tang stressed that the City is still in the process of studying various alternatives and developing mitigation measures to support elements of each.
Ms. Tang acknowledged that "we mustn't reduce the Navy's ability to operate and so in that sense, they do have veto authority over any alternatives if those alternatives do reduce operational capabilities. However, our intent has always been to enable the Navy to maintain operational capabilities while also enabling the City and COE to improve the East San Pedro Bay ecosystem and water quality. To that end, we are still working on developing the alternatives and robust mitigation measures. Since those mitigation measures are still a work in progress, they haven't been shared with the Navy yet, but of course we would as part of our ongoing working relationship."
In materials released concurrent with the City's Sept. 24, 2018 press event, the Corps of Engineers indicated that one of the alternatives being studied -- an Eastern Removal Alternative -- would remove one third (24 acres) of the eastern end of the LB Breakwater, which "preliminary wave modeling" indicated would have impacts on LB's oil islands, possibly Belmont Pier and issues involving the Navy's use of its explosives anchorage in Seal Beach.
Mayor Garcia stated at the Sept. 24 press event (LBREPORT.com VIDEO coverage here) that "we're looking at whether stones removed from the Long Beach breakwater could be used to build mitigation measures and this includes protective structures around the oil islands, the Belmont Pier, and of course we are working with our Navy partners." Mayor Garcia said that "just a few weeks ago, I met with the Navy and the top leadership...over here at the Navy base to discuss this measure and to work together in partnership as we move forward."
Another possible reconfiguration, a Western Notching Alternative, would create two 1,000 ft. notches in the western portion of the LB Breakwater that "preliminary wave modeling" indicates would "result in some increased swells that could impact the oil islands, Pier J as well as the Carnival Cruise terminal. However stones removed from the Long Beach Breakwater could be used to build mitigation measures, including protective structures along the oil islands, Pier J and open along the coast."
Details on the Corps of Engineers reconfiguration alternatives are in LBREPORT.com coverage here. (The Corps of Engineers is also studying three other alternatives that don't involve breakwater reconfigurations, focusing on ecosystem restorations such as restoring eel grass, kelp, oyster beds, reefs and the like.)
Three days after Capt. Dahlke signed his letter voicing the Navy's concerns to the City, Mother Nature weighed in. On October 5, 2018, an unexpected turn by Hurricane Sergio off Baja California, coinciding with a fairly regular high tide (not a "King Tide") that overtopped the roughly 7 foot high protective sand berm along the Peninsula (with overtopping mainly eastward of 61st Place, most visible around 64th Place.) LBREPORT.com provided VIDEO coverage with on-scene comments by 3rd dist. Councilwoman Suzie Price (who urged those supporting the return of waves to see for themselves what happened.) LBREPORT.com included additional video of the evening high tide at 64th Place, which showed that the beach had basically disappeared. It was filled by the ocean with waves overtopping the berm and knocking against (and in some spots penetrating) gaps in wood planks hurriedly installed by city crews using temporary struts; while this took place, other city workers drove heavy equipment to bolster the sand berm.
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