Recreational Boaters of California says well-intentioned plan would make it harder for boats to navigate East San Pedro Bay.
LONG BEACH—The city of Long Beach hopes to restore aquatic ecosystems along a stretch of coast between the Port of Long Beach and Alamitos Bay. Restoring local aquatic ecosystems could, according to Long Beach officials, increase the abundance and biodiversity of marine populations within East San Pedro Bay (which is near Rainbow and Shoreline harbors).
Long Beach, according to a draft feasibility study the city released in November 2019, is specifically proposing to “restore and improve aquatic ecosystem structure” and increase habitat biodiversity in an 18-square-mile section of East San Pedro Bay. This swath of water specifically includes the Long Beach shoreline, Los Angeles River estuary, Middle Breakwater, Long Beach Breakwater, Alamitos Bay jetties and the open water in between each of these locations.
A plan to restore the marine environment and improve the “abundance and biodiversity of marine populations” is certainly a noble pursuit, as acknowledged by the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC). But such a pursuit and plan comes with costs. One of those costs, according to RBOC: recreational boating.
“RBOC is concerned that elements in this project, which include additional rock habitat structure that would support kelp, eelgrass and other sensitive species or habitat types, would have a significant, negative impact on boating,” an official RBOC statement on the East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Project said. “Specifically and as clearly shown in the study materials, the project would place kelp beds in areas that are very popular for boaters throughout the region.
“These routes provide for safe navigation and have been extensively utilized for several decades. This will only increase in the future as key boating events are planned in this area that will provide both recreational opportunities and economic benefits for the region,” the RBOC statement continued.
Representatives from RBOC stated they submitted comments to the Los Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, hoping to be included as a stakeholder throughout the remaining process. RBOC representatives also hope portions of the East San Pedro Ecosystem Project are tweaked, as to eliminate any negative effects on recreational boating.
The ecosystem restoration project could, in one alternative, add 121-some acres of kelp habitat, including 60-some acres in open water, between Long Beach Breakwater and the Alamitos Bay coastline.
“This location allows kelp to take advantage of beneficial and nutrient rich cold water currents that giant kelp need to thrive,” the draft proposal stated.
Authors of the draft proposal included a visual exhibit showing a recreational boating passageway, allowing for possible navigation around the kelp habitats. The authors did acknowledge the pathway is “subject to change.”
Another proposed alternative would add five near-shore rocky reef shoals, totaling 15 acres, in shallow waters (less than 15 feet MLLW).
Installing near-shore rocky reefs would, according to the recent draft proposal, allow aquatic habitats and underwater ecosystems to “take advantage of shallower depths, availability of light, and greater movement of water and nutrients.
“The purpose of these reefs, aside from directly providing intertidal zone rocky reef habitat benefits, is to reduce the velocity of the surrounding fluid in order to provide suitable eelgrass habitat conditions,” a portion of the draft ecosystem proposal stated.
A third alternative: 25 acres of eelgrass habitat, spread out over five near-shore locations. The eelgrass habitats would co-exist with the rocky reefs and connect to existing eelgrass beds west of Belmont Pier.
“The presence of the 16 acres of near-shore rocky shoals would provide the calm, shallow conditions eelgrass requires by stabilizing the bathymetry of the near-shore environment. Beach compatible sediment would also be placed leeward of the rocky shoal to optimize ideal conditions and depth for eelgrass growth,” the draft ecosystem plan stated.
Oyster beds, sandy islands and coastal wetlands were also mentioned as possible infrastructure additions or alterations within the draft ecosystem plan.
“The key features of the [Tentatively Selected Plan] are 200.7 acres of restoration of kelp beds, rocky reef and eelgrass habitat within [East San Pedro Bay]. These restored habitats will bolster the bay’s ability to support marine biodiversity populations beyond its current productivity,” the draft ecosystem plan stated. “This is accomplished through identifying the optimal placement locations and restoration designs based on engineering and scientific studies. Restored habitat will provide increased nursery, protective shelter, foraging and food production functions.
“Placement of rocky reef and kelp beds provide ‘stepping stones’ between existing and restored habitat patches, boosting the life cycle capabilities of these habitats,” the draft ecosystem plan continued.
The initial cost of the ecosystem plan would be almost $141 million; the budget would cover adaptive management, construction management, monitoring and real estate. City staff and Army Corps officials spent 14 years developing solutions for the ecosystem restoration.
Would the ecosystem restoration – be it placement of kelp in open water, new eelgrass beds or expansion of rocky reefs – as currently proposed harm boaters? Reach out to the city of Long Beach, Army Corps or RBOC to share your opinion.
View the draft ecosystem proposal at bit.ly/2uKot5K for details about what Long Beach and Army Corps officials are planning to do in East San Pedro Bay.