City's sand-restoration plan survives attempt in Senate to put project on back burner
By Janine Zúñiga
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
May 16, 2007
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IMPERIAL BEACH – A delay in Imperial Beach's sand-replenishment project was averted yesterday when the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment to a major water-funding bill that would have put another project first.
City officials say the multimillion-dollar project would protect the beach against storm damage with periodic sand deposits for 50 years. It is included in the $14 billion Water Resources Development Act of 2007, which would authorize more than 600 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects around the country.
This week, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said pork projects were attached to the bill and cited the Imperial Beach sand-restoration plan.
Imperial Beach, with a population of 27,500, has struggled financially for decades. City officials are seeking to secure federal funding for the project, which is expected to cost a total of $56.2 million.
Coburn said wealthy beachfront property owners would be protected by the project and that the city would have sand for its popular sand castle competition. Radio and TV commentators and other senators quickly picked up that description.
The city's lobbyist in Washington, Greg Burns of Marlowe & Co., said: “This is not La Jolla. This is one of a few remaining working-class communities in California directly on the coast. It's a community on the rise, but this is not a city of second and third homes for rich people.”
The Senate overwhelmingly rejected Coburn's amendment, which would have postponed funding indefinitely for the city until a flood-control project in Sacramento was completed.
“That's good news,” Imperial Beach City Manager Gary Brown said. “We've been working on this for many years, and there certainly has been nothing secret about it. This is a case of the small guy being picked on for unwarranted reasons.”
Coburn, in a statement released after the vote, said Congress should focus on higher-priority projects in the water bill.
“Sand castles on Imperial Beach in San Diego won't hold back floodwaters in Sacramento,” Coburn said.
The city's sand project would be the largest of its kind on the West Coast. Senate Democrats hope to vote on the water bill this week.
Janine Zuniga: (619) 498-6636; firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for a link to Widcoast's Serge Dedina's thoughts on this project