The long-delayed effort to renovate the Venice canals moved forward last week when property owners there voted to line the crumbling waterways with a brand of perforated concrete cylinders called Loffelstein.
Four years ago state officials rejected a rehabilitation plan for covering the canals' banks with a solid wall of concrete because the walls would destroy a vital wetlands habitat. A search for alternate linings eventually led to a battle between residents who live along Venice's six canals and Councilwoman Ruth Galanter. The key issue was which brand of concrete block should be used to reinforce the canals' banks and hold in place soil for wetland plants. Homeowners favored Loffelstein because it looked better, they said, while Galanter backed a product called Armorflex because it was cheaper and had been recommended by environmental experts.
The city set up two test sites for each product along a stretch of one of the canal's banks. That experiment, which ended in July, showed that both construction materials could support wetland grasses. The cost of the Loffelstein project is estimated to be $3.95 million. Galanter, who now supports the use of the product, has proposed that the city contribute $900,000, which leaves the homeowners footing most of the bill. If the project gets approval from the state Coastal Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, construction could start next spring and end by the following year.