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Port Hueneme’s Beaches are Eroding; Dredging Set For This Fall

Posted on July 7, 2016

By Anne Kallas, Ventura County Star

Once again, the sand on Port Hueneme’s beaches is slowly washing away, a cyclical phenomenon that has plagued the area for more than 70 years.

And once again, dredging equipment is on the way.

Channel Islands Harbor Director Lyn Krieger said the equipment will be moved into place in October or early November to pump about 1 million cubic yards of sand from the Channel Islands Harbor sand trap, which currently holds twice that much.

The condition of Port Hueneme’s beaches has been an issue ever since the deep-water Port of Hueneme was constructed in the late 1930s by a group of local businessmen led by Richard Bard. The port interrupted the natural flow of sand southward along the California coast. Beaches south of the new port were stripped of sand.

The Navy took over the port during World War II, and after two buildings at the air station at Naval Base Ventura County were lost to the ocean in the 1940s, the problem was addressed. Accepting responsibility, Congress had the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a sand trap north of the Channel Islands Harbor.

Every two years since the early 1960s, sand has been dredged from the sand trap and funneled down the coast to Silver Strand Beach, Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme’s beach and Ormond Beach.

But the dredging isn’t required, Krieger noted, and the amount of sand dredged is contingent on federal funding.

“It all depends on what is in the budget,” Krieger said.

She said that said getting a full authorization for dredging cuts into allocations for other cities and agencies.

“Ventura Harbor is significantly under-dredged,” she said. “It’s only fair that this evens out over time.”

In 2014, 2.2 million cubic yards of sand were dredged, which went a long way toward making up the shortages of previous cycles. But now the sand is once again moving down the coast, and residents have expressed concern at Port Hueneme City Council meetings.

Krieger said sand replenishment has become such an issue over the past 10 years that she starts to work on funding negotiations for the next cycle even as the current dredging is taking place.

Interim Port Hueneme Public Works Director Butch Britt said the beaches have lost a great deal of the sand that was pumped during the last replenishment, but he is optimistic the problem will be short-lived.

“If we get the replenishment, which we’re scheduled to get, we should be in good shape,” said Britt, who has toured the beachfront. “There didn’t look to be anything our staff and Public Works Department need to be doing right now. (Erosion) is obviously taking place, but we’re in contact with the county, which is the sponsor of the project.”

Port Hueneme City Councilman Tom Figg has said the city needs to do more to address the situation.

“My recommendations remain the same as when I was elected in 2014: Institute proactive monitoring of sand replenishment with preemptive political and legislative intervention to prevent recurrence of severe beach erosion,” he said.

Figg said he believes such monitoring will prevent losses to the city.

“We must be strategic as opposed to dealing with problems after the fact,” he said. “That kind of strategy cost this city more than $2 million in the last erosion event and contributed to the depletion of our general fund reserves.”

Port Hueneme Mayor Doug Breeze said monitoring alone isn’t enough.

“The problem is we can’t force Congress to approve funding. I don’t care how hard we work. We can’t get it,” Breeze said, adding that it was a collaborative effort among all of those affected by the erosion, along with support from area lawmakers, that led to increased sand being pumped during the last cycle.

Breeze said that city staff and council have worked diligently to get more sand on the beaches, but because Port Hueneme is not the lead agency on the project, there’s only so much that can be done.

“The county is the lead agency,” he said. “We have agreement with the county that city representatives will attend local meetings and be involved in talks with the Army Corps. But the city helps, it’s not the lead.”

Source: Ventura County Star

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