Update on the Colorado Lagoon Project

Anyone who lives in Belmont Heights or Alamitos Heights has been affected by the construction on the Colorado Lagoon Project. This week, the City of Long Beach hosted a webinar to update the community about the progress and what’s to come and we attended to share the latest news with you!

The Background

The discovery of oil and development of housing in the area in the 1920s and 1930s led to the natural environment of the lagoon being changed in ways that restricted the tidal flow. Making it a diving venue for the Olympics in 1932 also led to some changes.

By the late 1990s, Heal The Bay’s beach rankings often found the lagoon one of the top 10 most polluted beaches in the state, featuring it on their “Beach Bummer” list, and efforts to improve the area stepped up. Upgrading the Colorado Lagoon has been a goal and a process for more than 20 years. The current project is the final phase of restoring the Lagoon to its natural state. 

A little over a year into the project, lots of residents had questions about how it’s going and when it will be done, and the City of Long Beach addressed these this week. 

What’s happened so far

The project has mostly proceeded as planned. The city cited two particular situations that have caused some delays along the way. The first was the greater than average amount of rain that came throughout the last year and caused a number of stoppages of the work. 

The second was the discovery of 17 unmapped utilities, including ones that needed to be handled delicately due to construction materials that are no longer used because of environmental hazards. Working with numerous third parties who had to remove these, having to get additional permits, and managing them in a way to safely remove toxic elements took extra time they hadn't planned for.

Most of the groundwork for the project has been completed, including diverting water, excavating, grading, and shoring up the area, and construction of temporary pathways for both utilities and pedestrians.

Where we are now

The project has finished quite a lot of the work so far, and is getting started on building a utility bridge on Colorado and both traffic bridges on Colorado and Eliot. The decision to build both bridges at the same time rather than staggering them to keep one open while the other gets constructed was estimated to knock two months off the construction schedule. 

The original finish date was set for around the end of summer 2024, but the delays have extended that. The City’s worst case scenario end date is now the end of 2024, but they are hopeful that they can speed up some of the work and come in ahead of that deadline. 

The Endgame

The final project will see the Colorado Lagoon restored to its original state, connected to the Marine Stadium and Alamitos Bay through an open channel, allowing the natural tides to return. Aside from the construction, removal of non-native plants and replanting of native ones as well as giving wildlife a more open path between the waterways will strengthen the ecosystem. Bike and pedestrian paths, as well as a relocation of the baseball diamond and expansion of flexible open grassy space will allow residents to continue to enjoy the area. 

Mostly funded by the Port of Long Beach, the environmental benefits of the project will qualify the city for credits from the government to offset changes and upgrades at the Port. Environmental experts have been monitoring and advising the contractors all through the process, and the lagoon has not suffered due to the construction.  Amazingly, the project is on budget, and not projected to exceed the original price tag of $34 Million. 

Answers to Resident Questions Included

  • The public pedestrian access walkway will be maintained throughout the duration of the project.
  • Trucks removing material should be sticking to the main streets and staying out of the neighborhood areas.
  • Issues of climate change like sea level rise and king tides were taken into consideration in the planning stages and are not expected to cause any problems in the future.
  • The open channel will not be accessible to boats once constructed.
  • Current parking will remain for the park, and planning made it possible to increase the open flat space available, which will be planted with grass to make it greener overall.
  • The fire station closure is unrelated to the Colorado Lagoon Project, and is intended to renovate the building's first and second floors to provide more private space for firefighters. Nearby fire stations are on alert to respond to the area.
  • Concerts in the Park are expected to return, perhaps rotating between Marina Vista Park and some other venues they have been using as substitutes including Recreation Park and Mother’s Beach. 

For more information on the project, go to the city’s Colorado Lagoon Project Website.

If you have questions, you can e-mail them to [email protected] with the subject line "Colorado Lagoon Open Channel."


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