By Anne Kallas Originally Appeared in The Ventura County Stary
A hydraulic dredge moved into place Thursday to pump 1.5 million cubic yards of sand out of the Channel Islands Harbor sand trap so it can replenish local beaches.
Lyn Krieger, director of the Ventura County Harbor Department, said that’s the amount of sand Congress was expected to pay to remove, and the complete congressional allocation came through.
The dredge operated by Manson Construction — a contractor for the Army Corps of Engineers — will be pumping sand from now until about mid-February.
For months, workers have been laying huge pipes along the coastline. The sand will be pumped first to Silver Strand Beach as needed, then be sent farther down the coast to Port Hueneme.
The sand can’t come too soon for Port Hueneme’s beaches, which are starting to seriously erode — again. Those beaches have been relying on dredged sand for decades, ever since the deepwater Port of Hueneme was constructed.
The port interrupts the natural flow of sand south along the coastline. After nearby Navy buildings were washed away in the early 1940s because of beach erosion, Congress authorized funding for every-other-year dredging of the trap created by the Army Corps of Engineers to capture the flow of sand.
Port Hueneme Mayor Tom Figg says the city’s beaches are being shortchanged.
In a draft strategic action plan, Figg alleges that the “statutory need” for the every-other-year dredging is enough money to pay for dredging 2,508,000 cubic yards of sand. Because the amount appropriated by Congress tends to be short of that, Figg says the “cumulative shortfall” of sand since 1996-97 is 8,775,133 cubic yards.
Krieger has repeatedly asserted that while a certain level of funding has been authorized, there are no requirements that the full amount be allocated.
“What Congress did was authorize the moving of sand,” Krieger said. “The bill authorizes Congress to allocate money. It doesn’t guarantee or require that they do it. It just authorizes it.”
In 2014, the Channel Islands Harbor sand trap was choked with sand and Port Hueneme beaches were being swept away. That year, a group of local leaders — including Krieger, Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and members of the Port Hueneme City Council — lobbied for an emergency increase in the dredging allocation to help the beaches recover.
The 2.8 million cubic yards of sand that was moved in 2014-15 successfully replenished Port Hueneme beaches.
Plans are in flux as far as a future mid-cycle replenishment.
“As far as an interim cycle replenishment — we’re working on that, but there is a total change in administrations, so we need to keep an eye out on what happens,” Krieger said.
Krieger said she is always working on future dredgings, keeping in touch with federal agencies on an ongoing basis. She said a collaborative approach to the issue has been the most successful.
“The Army Corps is our biggest advocate,” she said. “They know what we need, and they are a great friend to the harbor. They’ve really worked with us.”
Port Hueneme benefits from the dredging, but it does not have a direct role in negotiating funding or scheduling, Krieger noted.
Figg has proposed that an interagency coalition made up of representatives from the city of Port Hueneme, Ventura County, the Port of Hueneme and the Navy “monitor sand replenishment operations and proactively seek state and federal funding.”
The coalition would take over the $9,000 that currently funds the city’s membership in the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment, which works with cities and agencies up and down the Central Coast on such issues as coastal erosion, beach nourishment and clean oceans.