Long Beach officials approve $12.9 million storm protection project's first phase

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Long Beach officials approved the first phase of a $12.9 million project to add a bulkhead and storm protection improvements to the barrier island's north shore.

The City Council on Tuesday night directed the city manager and public works department to begin contracting design plans for flood protection infrastructure in one of Long Beach's most vulnerable areas.

Superstorm Sandy floodwaters severely damaged the water purification plant, a sewage treatment plant and several electrical and gas substations near Riverside Boulevard and Park Place on the Reynolds Channel shore.

Sandy left about 10 feet of standing water in the North Park neighborhood. Almost two years after the October 2012 storm, the city is still fixing power facilities. Long Beach City Hall continues to run on temporary power while repairs are made.

The proposed bulkhead would extend for four blocks from National to Monroe boulevards. The area for decades has been prone to flooding from Reynolds Channel, which separates the city and Island Park, Long Beach Public Works Commissioner James LaCarrubba said.

"This city has had a big hole in its protection where all of our most important facilities lie," LaCarrubba told the City Council. "We really saw how vulnerable the city is and how vulnerable it can be."

Council members approved design plan funds of as much as $1.5 million as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. City officials recommended giving the design phase to the Woodbury-based D&B Engineers and Architects.

The plans must be completed by June. If it comes in under budget, the unused grant money can be rolled over into the construction phase. FEMA will release additional funding for construction once designs are submitted, LaCarrubba said.

During the planning process, officials may also look at relocating critical infrastructure such as water and sewage plants to another part of Long Beach, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

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Public works officials are also studying additional flood prevention methods, including a series of water pump stations or an integrated dike system throughout the city.

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