The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will inject $4.9 million into a project to rehabilitate the failing breakwater outside Port San Luis Harbor, which the harbor district says is in very poor condition and could lead to "catastrophic breaching" if not repaired soon.
Port San Luis Harbor District General Manager Andrea Lueker said Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2015 identified several areas in the breakwater that were in need of work, including approximately 600 to 1,200 feet between Whalers Island and the head section that are badly damaged from the elements.
The breakwater includes several low spots and voids, and in some places, the seaward slope has virtually collapsed, she said.
Lueker said the current breakwater conditions do not pose an immediate danger, but if not improved, catastrophic breaching could have serious impacts on public safety, commercial fishing, port commerce, emergency preparedness and response, and recreational boating.
Lueker said $5 million was set aside by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the agency's annual work plan last year, but that the needed repairs far eclipse that amount.
Following some lobbying work in Washington, D.C., Lueker said the district project received a boost from U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, who directly lobbied the agency to have the assistant secretary of the Army and the director of the Office of Management and Budget include funding for the breakwater repair in their fiscal year 2018 work plan.
Carbajal issued a news release Tuesday saying the Army Corps allocated an additional $4.9 million for the project.
“The failing breakwater infrastructure at Port San Luis represents a critical threat to residents in Avila Beach, as well as to the safety of boaters along the Central Coast,” Carbajal said in the news release. “Our local economy relies heavily on coastal tourism and our robust commercial fishing industry, that are both protected, in part, by the Port San Luis breakwater."
Lueker said the total $9.9 million will cover the full cost of the project.
According to information provided by the harbor district, maintenance work was last performed on the breakwater in 2005. In 2008, the Army Corps conducted a structural inspection that outlined significant damage to the breakwater and prompted a complete documentation of the design and condition of the structure. However, no funds were identified at that time for the much-needed repairs.
The Army Corps' 2015 inspection found that future progressive damages will include catastrophic breaching resulting in major structural failure.
Lueker said the Army Corps is expecting to award a contract for the repair work by mid-September. Lueker did not have an expected start date for the work but said it will involve transporting rock via barge from Catalina. She said harbor traffic is not expected to be greatly impacted, though the contractor will likely set up a staging area within the harbor.