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Seawall crumbling around 'Jewel of Long Beach'

April 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A group of residents in Long Beach is keeping a very close eye on a crumbling seawall that could threaten homes. This is happening in the beach community of Naples Island.They call Naples Island and its ring of canals the "Jewel of Long Beach."

For 75 years, seawalls of concrete and rebar have protected homes. Those barriers are crumbling. Along the top of the seawalls, chunks are gone.

"From our measurements, we have been able to have the city put rods in those sections," said Maureen Poe, chairwoman of the Naples Seawall Committee.

Poe says it's even worse below the waterline.

"There were divers that went along and went down under the water and could see some of the ways that the walls were kind of separating, and could actually put their hand in and pull a little of the fabric off the wall," said Poe.

An engineering study found alarming conditions.

"The bottom line is that one of the quadrants in the Naples canal is in imminent danger of collapse," said Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong.

Dissolved over time, the seawalls are also threatened by earthquakes. The recent temblor was a reminder of how fragile the barriers are.

Historian Stanley Poe points to a photograph that shows what a 6.2-magnitude earthquake did in 1933.

"The seawalls go down and the soil comes out," said Stanley Poe.

And Naples Island is not solid ground.

"A lot of it is fill, and along where they got up to the seawalls, it's fill, because they needed to smooth the island out and come up with some straight perimeters," said Poe.

A fix will be expensive.

"One is a short-term solution is that they would take a couple million dollars, which could extend the life of the walls five to 10 years. The second, which is the long-term permanent solution is a $9-million solution to fully replace the seawalls in this quadrant," said DeLong.

"We really want to make sure that this wall is stable and it could be. It could be here for a very long time if we just take care of it," said Maureen Poe.

City leaders are scrambling for funds. They hope to have some viable sources by the end of May.