Long Marine Lab seawater intake repair wins environmental engineering award

Divers are lifted from the ocean at sunrise after working through the night during a low tide. (Photo by Phil Boutelle)

The seawater intake repair project at the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab was named the 2021 Environmental Engineering Project of the Year for the American Society of Civil Engineers, San Francisco Section.

The $1.1 million project began in fall 2019 and was scheduled to take three months but was delayed by high surf. It required divers who could only work during minus tides at the base of a 30-foot coastal cliff. Work began again in summer of 2020 but was delayed again by the Aug. 16, 2020 lightning storm and subsequent CZU Lightning Complex Fire. The project was finally completed last September. 

The seawater intake system can deliver up to 1,000 gallons a minute to labs to UCSC’s Coastal Campus and nearby labs operated by state and federal agencies. The intake structure is located in a small pocket beach and had been damaged by corrosion and heavy wave action. 

Nine separate federal, state and local regulatory agencies were involved in the permitting process. A seawater repair project of that kind had never been done before, said project manager Phil Boutelle from UCSC’s Physical Planning Development and Operations office.

The project will be recognized at the ASCE’s annual awards section meeting Sept. 23. It earlier was selected as environmental project of the year by the Monterey Bay chapter of the American Public Works Association.