LONG BEACH— A grant permitting an investigation into the potential impact of shifts in the city’s breakwater on the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station’s anchorage explosives system is being sought by the city.
Diana Tang, Long Beach’s manager of government affairs, said funding typically ranges from $200, 000 to 400,000 for a study of this scope. A Joint Land Use Study with the Navy, who carries ultimate veto, will be separate from the city’s main breakwater study.
“I think a lot of people feel because the breakwater study is a bigger study and it’s been around for much longer, they’re assuming that the Joint Land Use Study is a piece of it, but I think it’s very important to note that it is separate on its own and can be appended to the breakwater study at that time,” Tang said. “If we’re funded, it will be studied on its own.”
The Naval station’s explosives anchorage system is implemented in order to load ships that are either too big to enter Anaheim Bay or are carrying too many explosives. Located in the southwest portion of the harbor, the system sits about three miles from the breakwater in Anaheim Bay.
Naval ships anchor inside the breakwater, and then stow barges with munitions in the wharf to deliver the ordnance to the ships, according to Gregg Smith, public affairs spokesman for the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station.
“We generally tend to load Navy ships like cruisers and destroyers with munitions, and that’s perfectly safe,” Smith said. “But if you get a ship that carries a lot more explosives…if there was ever any sort of accident with a ship carrying that many explosives, we couldn’t necessarily guarantee the safety of the surrounding community. We don’t have ammunition ships and ships of that nature dock in the harbor even though they can fit into the harbor.”
The city completed the Long Beach Breakwater Reconnaissance Study in July 2009, an initial step that carries the potential of reconfiguration in the breakwater. In March 2013, City Council voted to spend $2.8 million to advance the breakwater study and determine whether a reduction in the harbor’s breakwater size is necessary. The 2.5-mile breakwater was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to protect naval ships and suppress water surges.
The capacity of the Joint Land Use Study would be determined following the approval of federal funding. Prior to the grant being delivered, a team would scope the study for one to three months. Depending on the scope, funding will then arrive, according to Tang. A study of this reach typically takes between 18 to 20 months and is instituted by the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), an entity which investigates opportunities in minimizing and eliminating potential incompatibilities with major defense program changes.
“Anytime you have any major military installation in an urbanized area and things are changing around that installation or the installation itself is changing, the OEA comes in and they work with the local communities,” Tang said. “It’s a very, very stakeholder driven process to understand what the community’s needs are and help the community understand what the Department of Defense’s needs are in relation to that specific military installation—in our case the anchorage on the east side of the water.”
Smith said the naval station is pleased to work alongside the city, which has shown a keen interest in the needs of the military entity.
As we’re moving into the next stage, and eventually that’ll be doing a feasibility study, we think it’s important that we continue working with the city to ensure that our concerns and operational impacts are addressed,” he said.