Federal and county authorities are touting a plan to remove several hundred thousand cubic yards of sediment from Marina del Rey Harbor that will be used at other beaches to address the advent of beach erosion.

The county Board of Supervisors approved an action Nov. 15 between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and county officials that both entities say will not only improve environmental conditions in Marina del Rey and bolster local beaches but will also help recreational boaters in the Marina’s harbor.

The dredging project is slated to move approximately 140,000 cubic yards of clean sediment offshore to Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey and up to 75,000 cubic yards will be pumped on Redondo Beach to address beach erosion.

Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey, called the dredging project a “very innovative deal.”

“This is really going to help with beach erosion issues, which is a big regional problem,” Knabe told The Argonaut.

The Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay agrees with the supervisor.

“This disposal method for beach re-nourishment is something that we really support,” said Susie Santalena, an environmental engineer in water quality with Heal the Bay.

Santalena said her organization is a member of a task force on contaminated sediment and while they support the dredging project, they were also initially concerned about the possibility of tainted sand being deposited at a beach.

Heal the Bay contacted the California Coastal Commission, which worked with the environmental organization to request that the federal government conduct additional tests to make sure that the sand headed to Dockweiler and Redondo Beach is not contaminated.

“Some of where the dredging project will occur is near an outlet to Ballona Creek, so we were worried that there might be sediment that is unsafe going to the beaches,” Santalena explained. “We are now confident that the sediment that they want to put on the beaches is clean.”

The federal government applauded the supervisors’ Nov. 15 vote.

“I am pleased to hear that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved additional funding for our dredging project at Marina del Rey,” said Col. Mark Toy, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. “This is another example of the quality partnership that exists between the Corps and the county of Los Angeles and the benefits the partnership provides.”

County officials say another benefit that the dredging initiative will bring is added safety for recreational boaters. Sediment near the north and south entrances of the Marina’s harbor has reduced the ability to navigate, and removing this obstacle will allow safer boating conditions, Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors authorities say.

“Sand builds up and is funneled into smaller areas, and less skilled and less experienced boaters have more difficulty maneuvering in the harbor,” Beaches and Harbors Chief Deputy Director Kerry Silverstrom explained.

Greg Schem, president of the Boatyard in Marina del Rey, sees the initiative as crucial for sailors who use the harbor.

“(The dredging project) is critical to the continued operations of Marina del Rey boating,” he said. “I’m delighted to hear that there will be dredging.”

Schem said silt from the ocean causes a narrowing in parts of the harbor entrances, which creates a bottleneck on busy sailing days.

In addition to the clean sand that will be deposited at Dockweiler, up to 760,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed from the Marina del Rey Harbor entrance and transported by barge to the Port of Long Beach for a redevelopment project.

Silverstrom said Beaches and Harbors officials are also concerned about beach erosion and they plan for it accordingly.

“We prioritize our beaches when dredging is about to occur,” she said. “We’ve re-nourished Redondo Beach up to 18 feet recently.”

Silverstrom added that the county would be contributing $5.3 million to the project.

Schem mentioned the public safety aspect of having the harbor entrances relatively free of silt for first-responders. “If we need a Coast Guard vessel to come into the channel, they need to have deeper access to the harbor,” he noted.

The initiative will save more than $85 million and eliminate the 42,000 truck trips through communities that would have been required to dispose of the sediment at inland landfill sites, according to county authorities.

Knabe said the agreement with the federal government is a “once in a lifetime opportunity and the timing is perfect. Marina del Rey needs to get rid of sediment and Long Beach needs sediment.”

Toy said the next step is for his agency’s headquarters to review and accept the additional funds approved by the Board of Supervisors. “I’m confident that all relevant information and conditions will be considered and that a decision will occur as expeditiously as possible,” the colonel said.

Knabe sees the initiative as an example of government entities as well as nonprofit organizations like Heal the Bay working in a collaborative fashion.

“I want to thank the Army Corps of Engineers and all parties involved for their willingness to work together for the safety and benefit of the residents of Los Angeles County,” the supervisor said.

Santalena applauded the engineering corps for agreeing to the additional tests so that the public knows the sand slated to be transported to the beaches is indeed without contamination.

“Kudos to the Army Corps of Engineers for doing the testing for pesticides,” she said.

Silverstrom said Beaches and Harbors Director Santos Kreimann is meeting in Sacramento with state lawmakers to secure additional funding for the dredging project.

“If we don’t get the money, we won’t be able to do the complete dredging job,” she warned. “The Marina is a destination, so to the extent that we can get it dredged, it will add to its viability.”

The project is expected to begin in January and completion is targeted for next September.

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