At the mouth of Marina del Rey, it is what you don't see that makes emergency responders nervous: Shallow waters caused by rising sediment and shifting sand, a trap for marina traffic.
"We get probably 20 to 30 boats in the summertime that will actually run aground, so we'll go and we'll have to tow them off," said Brian Hogue, L.A. County Fire Dept.
It's more than recreation that's endangered. An 84-foot Coast Guard cutter is stationed here, a strategic launch point. It must make a speedy exit through the hazardous shoals to respond to a range of homeland security threats at LAX, the port area and offshore oil operations.
"Being able to respond to pollution incidents, being able to respond to the increased transnational smuggling, all the drugs and migrants coming into the country," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Stewart Sibert.
Government leaders have lobbied for the $13-million dredging project now underway. Tons of material will be scooped out and in a process of recycling, the material will provide landfill for the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project, a massive upgrade for the Port of Long Beach. Later, cleaner sand will replenish local beaches suffering from erosion.
The project saves money: The sand and sediment is loaded onto a barge and transported to other locations. Otherwise it would have to be traveling by truck.
"Between the Port of Long Beach and Marina del Rey, we'll probably be taking 100,000 truck trips off the road. Very, very significant," said L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe.
The $13-million dredging cost is split between federal and county agencies. Knabe says in the long run the economy will benefit from the collaborative project. He says the port expansion will produce 14,000 jobs, with environmental safeguards along the way.