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Long Beach before the breakwater. (photo from long beach historical society)

From the Times article on the Breakwater:

One of the world's largest breakwaters stands between Long Beach and the Pacific Ocean, reducing mighty waves to mere lake-like lapping along the city's beaches. Without surf to cleanse them, those beaches were recently graded among the dirtiest in the state.

Surfers, environmentalists and some residents believe that restoring the surf would improve coastal water quality and draw visitors to the shoreline. They want officials to consider altering or removing the 2.2-mile eastern portion of the 8.4-mile San Pedro Bay breakwater -- the portion that sits offshore from the city's downtown, Bluff Park, Belmont Shore and Naples.

Known as the Long Beach Breakwater, that piece helped protect the U.S. Pacific Fleet when it was stationed in the city. After the Navy and its ships left in the mid-1990s, some began to wonder if the breakwater had become obsolete.

This month, the Long Beach City Council voted 6 to 2 to hire Moffatt & Nichol Engineers to conduct a $100,000 preliminary study of the federally owned breakwater, to be funded equally by the city and the California Coastal Conservancy.

Some local officials say that the key cause of the dirty beaches is not the breakwater but the Los Angeles River, which drains 51 miles' worth of trash, urban runoff and sewage into Long Beach Harbor. They said cleaning up the river, not just improving water circulation in the bay, would be a better solution.

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