Meeting w/Army Corps of Engineers about Vets Park project

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on January 06, 2013 at 19:30:59:

As many of you know what is referred to as the Topaz Beach Sand Renourishment in Aug/Sept 2012 caused havoc at Vets Park with visibility basically gone for some time and trash left in the wake of the project completion (though we can't conclusively prove it was from them).

On November 28, 2012, the Corps' Contaminated Sediment Task Force (about 30 people all told including reps from EPA, NOAA, CA Coastal Commission and other regulatory bodies) held their regular meeting and we were invited to come and present our concerns about the project. FYI, this is, as far as I'm concerned, an on-going thing and I don't feel this issue is put to rest yet.

Present at this meeting representing the dive community concerns were myself and Roc Allen, along with Susie Santilena from Heal the Bay. These are the official Corps summary notes of the comments made during the hour or so that we all discussed this:

i. NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) expressed concern over trash and debris observed on the seafloor at the temporary offshore disposal site and Veteran’s Park submarine canyon during and immediately following the Corps Marina del Rey Maintenance Dredging Project. Members of the Corps questioned the project contractors, Anchor QEA and Dutra, regarding the disposal. Contractors stated that during water quality monitoring and their observations of shoreline nourishment, the sand at the surf line appeared clean and they were not aware of debris being deposited there. During offshore disposal, sediment placement was not visible and debris presence is not a part of standard water quality monitoring, so no observation of the deposit was made below surface level. Sand for the beach nourishment at the surf line was passed through screens, but the offshore sand was not. During beach nourishment, the screens were clogged with plastic and other debris numerous times.

ii. Ken Kurtis, a local diving instructor and dive business owner with several decades’ experience with the site, described conditions at the site before and after disposal. Roc Allen, another local diver,discussed the nature and extent of trash observations and the cleanup operations the dive community has been undertaking. From August 10, 2012 through October 15, 2012, Roc dove the site bi-weekly. He set up two quadrants around the barge and found large debris fields from 40 to 75-80 feet partially covered in sediment. These observations contrast with the clean sand he saw prior to August. Samples of collected plastic and other trash were passed around to illustrate the types of debris collected by divers.

iii. A map illustrating dive tracks made by NMFS personnel
investigating reported impacts was provided to the Corps. This
map accompanies two NMFS videos showing debris on both the
temporary offshore site and the submarine canyon slope.

iv. Larry Smith (Corps of Engineers) suggested that Veteran’s Park may be a natural debris sink and that a combination of factors, including disposal, may have led to the debris.

v. Bryant Chesney (NOAA) stated that proving a causative link between the sediment disposal and debris to the satisfaction of the team may be difficult given the absence of the establishment of a baseline or monitoring concurrent with the project, and that discussion might better be focused on whether or not this type of outcome is acceptable for beach nourishment activities. Members discussed protocol which may be employed to prevent any such occurrence in future projects.

vi. No conclusion regarding causation, mitigation or alterations to project planning in the future were reached. The Corps thanked the dive community for their contributions to both cleaning the site and awareness of a potential impact. All parties agreed this project would require further discussion.

- Ken
Ken Kurtis
Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
(310) 652-4990

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