Long Beach reconsiders Army Corps beachfront project

Portions of the Long Beach boardwalk were twisted

Portions of the Long Beach boardwalk were twisted and destroyed by superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 18, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

Long Beach will invite the Army Corps of Engineers back to the city to work on a storm damage reduction project -- a plan the city backed away from in 2006.

The City Council's unanimous vote Tuesday night, in the wake of about $250 million in damages from superstorm Sandy, restarts the process of shoring up the city's beachfront, city officials said.

The work is expected to include the replenishment and elevation of the beach, which lost more than 3 million cubic feet of sand during the storm, as well as the construction of a protective sand berm.


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The City Council in 2006 shot down a similar plan when numerous residents opposed the project. Its $98.5 million price tag, 65 percent of which would have paid by the federal government, included a 15-foot barrier to be placed under the boardwalk.

City officials said the new project would likely cost much more, a concern for the cash-strapped city.

But Sandy's devastation taught the city a lesson about its vulnerability, which is greater than ever now that high tide creeps within 25 feet of the boardwalk because of the beach erosion, officials said.

"I think we agree that it's not just a good idea," Councilman Michael Fagen said. "It's necessary."

Army Corps spokesman Ken Wells said the Corps is glad the city is willing to reconsider the project. "Local support is extremely important to a project like this," he said.

City Council members were quick to remind the public the vote merely restarts the conversation with the Army Corps, and doesn't bind the city to a financial commitment.

But many residents once again told the council they will keep a close eye on the project -- and its price tag. Several residents said they believed the Corps was attempting to push through the project in 2006.

"I'm very skeptical of any plan that isn't thoroughly vetted," resident John Ashmead said.

Roy Lester, whose home in the Canals neighborhood was heavily damaged, said the city's mitigation issues stretch beyond the beachfront.

"We're going to have to address the bay," Lester said.

The Army Corps requested the City Council consider coming back to the table, Long Beach officials said. The process will unfold slowly, and a new plan won't be drawn up until next year, officials said.

"We certainly don't want the take-it-or-leave-it approach," public works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said. "We are going to have some back-and-forth with the Army Corps, absolutely."

The City Council also voted to establish the City of Long Beach Relief Fund, a charitable foundation that will allow people to donate money to the city for hurricane relief.

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