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Senator Coburn and the Next Bridge to Nowhere

May 17 2007 | Coastal Preservation,
by Chad Nelsen

Senator Coburn and the Next Bridge to Nowhere

Imperial Beach gets sand blasted in the senate.

Poor, poor, city of Imperial Beach. With a huge chip on its civic shoulder and the inability to think strategically, engage the public in a meaningful way or balance a budget, the city is risking bankruptcy and the further erosion of its squandered reputation by pleading for up to $56 million (according to today's The San Diego Union-Tribune) to have the Army Corps of Engineers carry out a sand-dredging project to place millions of cubic yards of sand on beaches that do not require any extra sand (our beach is big). The sand in question will come from an area adjacent to a sewage outfall pipe and once used as a WWI Aviation Gunnery and bombing range. Once the sand is dredged and placed on our beaches, the first winter storm will wash it away in less than 24 hours.

The project could destroy the Tijuana Sloughs as well, a legendary big-wave spot, now listed as dead in a T-shirt marketed by the Gap.

Thankfully, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), an old-school fiscal conservative, and the man who defeated "The Bridge to Nowhere" noticed that it seemed odd to deliver millions in scarce federal monies for sand to Imperial Beach when levees in Sacramento need fixing. http://www.kpbs.org/news/local?id=8330 The senator noted that the city has contracted (to the tune of $184,000 since 2001) with Marlowe & Company to lobby elected officials for the sand money.

Here is the senator on the IB sand dredging project:


While the City of Imperial Beach has budgeted tens of thousands of dollars to hire a Washington, DC lobbying firm and to pay for cash prizes for sandcastle competitions, it expects the U.S. taxpayer to pay the price of maintaining sandy beaches. Corps priorities should be determined based upon the merits of projects, not on the political connections of Washington, DC lobbyists.


The irony here is the city of Imperial Beach is begging for the federal government to dredge and dump sand on beaches that were closed for close to 200 days last year due to pollution from Mexico. Apparently the city is asking for the sand in order to safeguard the Imperial Beach Sandcastle Competition, which last year was known locally last year as "Gangfest." The Imperial Beach Eagle & Times described the event this way:

The event has morphed from a small-town, family oriented, fun-in-the-sun beach blast, designed to draw in tourist dollars and put I.B. on the vacation map, into what many residents and business owners feel has become a carnival side show complete with gangs of scary visitors. Last year, crowds exceeding 400,000 swarmed over the beach, clogged streets and resulted in 179 felony crimes. According to law enforcement officials, a near riot situation developed on Saturday night after the fireworks show. Masses of people crowded onto side streets and a fight started. Gang members tried to incite more violence and sheriffs had to move quickly using canine units and special crowd control tactics to break up the mob. As laid-back as this very laid-back town is, tolerance for such a big, messy party has grown thin and locals are saying enough is enough.


The irony here is that Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney and City Manager Gray Brown scoffed at a suggestion made by Wildcoast to have beachfront property owners, the wealthiest residents of Imperial Beach, pay their fair share of the project. However, Janney and Brown have asked low-income, at risk children do their own fundraising to build a skateboard park that will give them something to do when local beaches are closed. Meanwhile Mayor Jim Janney, who campaigned on a promise of fiscal restraint and accountability, has disappeared from public view. Got mayor anyone?

SERGE DEDINA
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