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Harbor breakwater repair next summer – first in 25 years

Waves crash over the King Harbor north breakwall Dec. 28. Photo by Craig Hymovitz

Posted on January 8, 2024

By Garth Meyer

With high waves now crashing the coastline, plans are underway to repair the north King Harbor breakwater next summer.

Two men from the Army Corps of Engineers spoke to the Redondo Beach city council Dec. 5, one of whom worked on the last repair in 1999, and the expansion after the 1988 storm.

“We’re still here,” said Chuck Mesa, chief of coastal engineering, Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles.

He gave a report on plans for next year’s three-month project to reset old boulders and add new ones.

City Councilman Todd Loewenstein asked what the city is to do this winter.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of nature right now,” Loewenstein said.

“We think the structure has resilience built in… We don’t anticipate a catastrophic failure like in 1988,” Mesa said. “It literally was the Storm of the Century. It’s so unique, it’s off the charts. We’ve never seen it before and haven’t seen it since.”

The federal Tidelands fund will pay for the repair, estimated to cost $10 million. The work is to follow a separate dredging of the harbor next spring.

“What the breakwater structure needs is to get back to its designed intention,” said Mesa, who worked on the plans for the expanded breakwater after the 1988 storm. That project made the King Harbor barrier higher and wider by a third.

Added boulders this time will likely come from a quarry on Catalina Island, Mesa said. Engineers will use barges to bring rocks, as opposed to trucks that brought in boulders during  the 1999 repair.

The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the two breakwaters — north and south — at King Harbor.

A 2017 Corps inspection showed structural damage on the north section, deemed significant enough to start planning a repair. Since then, the Corps, Redondo Beach city staff and advocates from the marina industry have sought federal funding.

The 2023 inspection of the north section rated it “Seriously Degraded,” with boulders missing or dislodged.

The report noted that the breakwater remained nearly at full functionality.

Jim Fields, chief of navigation section, Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles, also spoke to the council. He worked with Mesa on the 1999 breakwater repair.

Wave whips fisherman off breakwater

A fisherman blown off the breakwater by a rogue wave Dec. 28 next to King Harbor Yacht Club was rescued by a kayaker, then Harbor Patrol.

The Spanish-speaking man was taken to UCLA Harbor General Hospital for head trauma.

“This is one of the reasons we shut off Yacht Club Way during high surf,” said Jason May, Harbor Patrol, Redondo Beach Fire Department division chief, operations.

Head Fire Chief Patrick Butler happened to be at the yacht club on another matter when the mid-day incident occurred. The chief acted as translator for the fisherman.

In 2016, four fishermen were blown off the breakwater at night. Three were rescued and one died.

“These (rogue) waves are unpredictable in their size and magnitude,” May said.


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