Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant The First Flood and New Bulkheads

On July 17, 1947, Ford Long Beach had a flood when high tides forced back one to three feet of sewage and sea water into the plant drains. The drains were located under the floor with collection pipes to take the excess water out into the channel. In this event, water entered through the drains at high tide and forced its way to the surface. Where the depressed railroad track entered the northeast end of the building, water was over eleven inches deep. After the cars were assembled, they were normally driven to the yard where they were delivered to the convoy company or the shipping dock. The roadway to those points crossed the now underwater depressed track where the cars stalled and were muddied up.

The water level was measured at four points on the dock during the July 17 high tide, and they showed only one foot six and a half inches to one foot nine inches of free board. The land had dropped 3-4 inches since January, 1947. Projected subsidence figures counted on a worst-case total sinking of 10.9 feet. Combining this with the worst high tide observed, eight feet, the engineers planned on new bulkheads and piling with 8.6 feet of free board in case wind chop and storm and high tide all came at the same time.

The following January work was commenced on a three quarter of a million-dollar dike designed to keep the twice annual high tides from backing up under the plant and flooding the rail tracks and outside the cafeteria and other low spots. The Job consisted of driving a three-quarter inch thick wall of steel around the entire waterfront 30 feet into the mud bottom. The steel wall would come up through another 30 feet of water and rise five feet into the air. On top of that a 31-inch thick concrete wall would rise 12 feet on top of the steel wall, topping about seven feet above the old dock level. In addition to this an earth dike would be placed and faced with armored rock along both the shorelines at the south end of the docks and to the new Helm freeway bridge. All of this was under the supervision of Fred Sach of the Plant Engineering Department in Dearborn. J. H. Davies was the engineer and produced the drawings.

At the same time Davies designed and Sack oversaw the construction of a new pump house. This went up at the south end of the assembly building on the dock just west of the oil house. The concrete foundation for the pump house was three feet thick, and an additional concrete layer was poured below the main floor level as an added protection against surging tides. The pump house held three 7,500 gallon-a-minute pumps which went into action automatically when water reached a certain point. They brought water up from under the plant and spewed it into the ocean. Three penstocks led from the pump house out to the new dike.

More diking protection lay ahead. In July, 1951, E.J. Amar, General Manager of the Port of Long Beach, wrote to R.C. Armour, Plant Manager at Long Beach Ford, letting themknow that subsidence to that date was 8 feet and that they could expect 8-9 feet more. The annual rate of subsidence then was .9 feet and was effecting the approach to the Heim Bridge as well as the Ford plant. In 1952 and 1953 Ben C. Gerwick Inc. of San Francisco was under contract to install a $75,000 steel bulkhead. He also installed 245 linear feet of retaining wall in a "U" shape north of the existing bulkhead under the Heim Bridge towers on the Ford property. The enclosure had a slab floor and was described as an area extension for the salvage yard. Plans were completed in April 1953 by William J. Moran Co. Engineers of Alhambra for more water front protection. These would cost $297,200. This provided for a new arrangement of steel sheet piling commencing at the pump house, running east, and outside the corner of the dock running south along the main dock. A concrete drain trench was part of the job. The Moran plans depict the course of drains throughout the plant and the existing 30 inch drain which discharged into the basin outside of the northeast corner of the Assembly building. In addition, this drawing defines the position of the guardhouse which stood on the roadway leading to the plant from under the Heim Bridge and which had recently been moved a short distance. It also positions the Edison transformer northwest of the guardhouse.