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Hurricane swells cause $20 million in damage to port breakwater

Hurricane swells cause $20 million in damage to port breakwater
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photos show breaches in breakwaters protecting Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor. (Greg Fuderer/ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

A breakwater protecting the Port of Long Beach will require an estimated $20 million in emergency repairs after heavy surf last month from Hurricane Marie inflicted substantial damage, including dozens of breaches, officials said.

Eleven of the breaches along the 18,500-foot-long Middle Breakwater -- one of three protecting the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor -- are considered "major" and total an estimated 1,550 feet, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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While the damaged breakwater remains functional with average daily wave conditions, "with any significant wave or storm event in the area, its functionality has been compromised and will decrease as wave height increases," the agency's spokesman, Greg Fuderer, said in a statement.

Engineers inspected the breakwaters by boat, air and foot to tally the damage inflicted by Marie, a Category 5 hurricane that rolled up the coast of Baja Mexico with sustained winds up to 157 mph.

Another 39 areas suffered significant to moderate breaches for a combined 2,575 feet, the Corps of Engineers said. There was no cost estimate for those repairs.

Significant and moderate damage was also found along the San Pedro and Long Beach breakwaters.

Fuderer said it was important to repair the breakwaters because "once they start to come apart, they are very susceptible to greater damage following any additional significant wave event." And as the breakwater becomes more porous, more potentially damaging wave energy enters the harbor.

According to the Corps of Engineers, repairs, especially major damage on the Middle Breakwater, should be made as quickly as possible before winter storms start forming.

Eight significant areas on the breakwater have only one layer of rock and are not interlocking, putting the areas at significant risk of failing, the agency said.

The project has yet to be approved, but Fuderer said officials are pursuing "emergency action to expedite repairs."

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com

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