September 16, 2008

Tide May Be Turning on Beach Pollution

By Kristopher Hanson

Trash, chemical residue and yard clippings surging down the Los Angeles River and onto local beaches were a problem long before anyone seriously tackled the environmentally detrimental trifecta of dirty trucks, polluting locomotives and soot-spewing cargo ships in the city's port and harbor.

But in spite of the vigor in which regulatory agencies, industry and elected leaders have attacked the latter problems, a consensus on how to deal with the so-called "river problem" seems far from certain.

Solutions range from diverting the river, lowering or completely removing the rock breakwater protecting Long Beach's harbor to doing nothing, and so far, the leave-the-breakwater-and-river-alone crowd have prevailed.

But the tide may be turning.

Recent decisions by the City of Long Beach to fund a $100,000 breakwater study and newfound support from local Congressional leaders to fund breakwater research indicate that the city may be growing weary of its title as home to one of California's dirtiest beach fronts - an ignominious designation bestowed upon the community in annual Heal the Bay beach report cards.

Even the Port of Long Beach, which has long opposed breakwater alteration, has said recently it would consider funding some research into the problem.

The Long Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation hopes to maintain this momentum, and is hosting a public forum on river and beach pollution at 6p.m. today at Smooth's Grille, 144 Pine Ave. in downtown Long Beach.

The forum will feature a presentation by marine scientist Marc Eriksen, who crafted a boat made of 15,000 plastic bottles, sailed it 52 miles down the L.A. River and then embarked on a voyage to Hawaii aboard the makeshift craft to study trash accumulation in the Pacific.

Friends of the Los Angeles River, a non profit group dedicated to restoring the waterway, will also be on hand.

$10 donations to Surfrider's "Sink the Breakwater" campaign and FOLAR's river restoration efforts are being collected at the door.

Ryan Smolar, a Long Beach entrepreneur who helped coordinate tonight's meeting, said a real debate on the issue is long overdue.

"We really need to get to a point where we start talking about solutions, rather than just in an abstract of 'Is it a problem,' and 'What can we do?'," Smolar said. "It makes sense to start to look at solutions now before we end up in a position where we're forced to do something quickly and without a real plan."

To learn more, visit www., www.smoothssports or

Secretary visits port

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez stopped by the Port of Los Angeles on Monday to promote a long-delayed free trade agreement with South Korea, which has been held up in Congress for more than a year as questions linger over the economic, environmental and labor impacts of global commerce.

Gutierrez, a champion of such agreements, said the United States would benefit by having a new and emerging market in which to sell its products and services. South Korea is Asia's third-largest economy, behind China and Japan.

But critics of the program say it would only lead to outsourcing and lower work standards.

Gutierrez will return to Washington by week's end to meet with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, whose nation is also trying to pass a free-trade agreement with the United States.

[email protected], 562-499-1278

(c) 2008 Press-Telegram Long Beach, CA.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.