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Equipment trouble suspends Oceanside harbor dredging and beach replenishment

Surfers at the mouth of the San Luis Rey River walk under a pipeline installed to carry sand from the harbor to beaches near the pier.

Posted on May 20, 2024

Mechanical problems have forced Manson Construction to suspend dredging of the Oceanside Harbor entrance channel with about two-thirds of the job completed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hires the contractor annually to keep the channel clear for navigation and, as a by-product of the operation, to place sand from the harbor on Oceanside’s northern beaches.

Usually, the work takes six to eight weeks and is finished by Memorial Day weekend, in time to replenish the shoreline for the unofficial start of the summer tourist season. That now appears unlikely this year.

Manson began the work April 22 with the goal of removing 250,000 cubic yards of sediment. However, city officials were notified Wednesday that the barge was being docked for repairs after removing about 150,000 cubic yards. No information was available on what type of repairs the vessel needed or how long they may take.

“They did receive an extension to go two weeks past Memorial Day, if needed; however, again, it depends on how extensive the repair is,” said Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Chief Dena M. O’Dell.

City officials have strongly requested the dredging continue and have offered assistance, both staffing and financial, if Manson can resume after repairs are made, said Oceanside Senior Management Analyst Terry Gorman Brown.

Some years, the city contributes financially to get additional sand, if the channel has enough material, beyond the 250,000 cubic yards paid for by the Corps. That appears unlikely this year, Brown said.

Pipes remain on the beach in Oceanside in hopes that sand replenishment will resume.

Manson has left the pipes and some of the equipment used to distribute the sand on the beach in preparation for a possible return.

This year, Manson started distributing the sand farther south and closer to the pier than in the past, Brown said. Beaches south of the pier get little of the harbor sediment and are much more eroded.

“Fortunately, this decision, which was made prior to the dredge experiencing mechanical problems, helped maximize the benefits of the limited amount of sand supplied to city beaches,” she said.

Waves and ocean currents constantly push sand into the harbor. Without dredging, the channel would soon become impassible. Normally, regular maintenance keeps the harbor entrance about 20 feet deep, but a big storm can reduce the depth to as little as 10 feet.

The Corps of Engineers indicated the passage is safe for now, but the city is requesting regular inspections to ensure it remains that way, Brown said. An additional dredge may be needed later this year if Manson can’t return in the next few weeks.

Almost all North County beaches are badly eroded. Earlier this month, the Corps of Engineers finished the first phase of a long-awaited, federally funded replenishment project that significantly expanded the shoreline in Encinitas and Solana Beach using sand dredged from the ocean near Del Mar.

Oceanside has been working on its own separate project for about three years.

Early this year, the Oceanside City Council approved preliminary plans for a proposal called Re:Beach that includes pumping nearly a million cubic yards of sand from offshore deposits onto the beach south of the pier and holding it there with two artificial headlands.

Sand taken from the ocean has larger grains and stays on the beach longer than the more fine-grained sediment pulled from the harbor.

The final engineering and design for the Re:Beach project are on schedule to be finished in early 2026.

The plan would need approval from the California Coastal Commission and other state, federal and local agencies. Also, the city would have to find grants to cover the construction costs expected to be between $30 million and $50 million.


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