OCEANSIDE — Last Friday dredging operations to move sand out of the harbor channel and onto Oceanside beaches were down again. Annual federal dredging operations to clear the harbor of built up sand got a late start this year, and have seen numerous delays due in part to weather.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) oversees operations, and is in the process of extending this year’s dredging permit from the current Aug. 4 deadline to the end of August.
“Our goal is always to get about 200,000 cubic yards (of sand dredged) and make the channel navigable for critical boats, commercial boating, recreational boating, fishing and naval operations,” Col. Kirk Gibbs, commander of USACE Los Angeles District, said. “Where we’re at for this year is about 30 percent of that goal.”
Annual dredging is usually completed by Memorial Day. This year, operations began on June 6, and have run into big swells and high beach and harbor use.
The delayed start was due to a vetting process to ensure CJW Construction, which had the lowest bid for the job, could do the work.
Then operations closed for the July 4 weekend to avoid impeding holiday boating. Other temporary shut downs were due to high swells.
“The weather has been a primary concern, and a challenge for us,” Gibbs said.
The main harbor channel is shallower than usual this year due to extra sand brought in by El Niño weather.
‘We actually hope to get more than the 200,000 cubic yards,” Gibbs said. “Based on the swell conditions while we’ve been trying to dredge, it’s still at a high level, but we’ve making progress every day. We will get that (channel) open.”
Another factor is CJW is a smaller dredging company then used in previous years, with smaller equipment. Its operations have been sorely impacted by the high swells. Numerous repairs to the dredge barge and support vessels have been necessary. Wave heights over three-feet have exceeded equipment capability.
To keep operations moving forward extra dredging equipment was brought in, in July to expedite operations, and the work schedule was stepped up to 24/6, on days not shut down by weather. A new mooring system has allowed operations to continue through wave heights greater than three-feet.
As of July 22, 68,800 cubic yards of sand has been dredged from the harbor and put onto city beaches.
Dredging is completed on the right side of the channel and will move to the left side this coming week. Ocean conditions look promising to allow the work to get done.
Adding sand to beaches is a beneficial byproduct of operations that is important to the city and USACE.
On the beach three-foot wide dredge pipes, currently located between the North Coast Village vacation condos and Surfrider Way, are buried when possible. Pipes that sit on the sand are marked, and sand access ramps have been formed at 60 feet intervals to allow people to get to the beach.
Beachgoers seem to have adapted. They use the access ramps and set up beach chairs and umbrellas on both sides of the pipes.
Beachfront homeowners have expressed concerns about unsightly equipment storage, and the negative impact operations have had on vacation rentals.
To lessen operation impacts, equipment storage has been screened and some storage was moved away from the beach in late June.
The USACE has vowed to make sure future dredging is completed by Memorial Day to avoid impacting summer enjoyment of the harbor and beaches. Gibbs said another lesson learned is equipment to deal with adverse weather conditions needs to be on site.