OCEANSIDE — Dredging operations to clear the harbor channel of built up sand, and add salvaged sand to shrinking beaches got a late start this year, and the project continues to see setbacks.
Summer high swells have caused operations to temporarily shut down and further delay the progress of dredging 260,000 cubic yards of sand, which was expected to be completed by Aug. 2.
Yearly dredging operations, which are usually finished by Memorial Day, did not begin until June 6.
High swells caused dredging to be suspended off and on since June 19, and temporarily shut down for six days beginning June 30, because of swells and the July 4 holiday weekend.
The city called a stakeholders meeting on June 25 to voice concerns. At that point, about 20,000 cubic yards of sand had been dredged and added to city beaches.
The meeting was attended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), CJW dredging company, Congressman Darrell Issa, Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood, Councilman Jerry Kern, Assistant City Manager Deanna Lorson and Harbor Manager Paul Lawrence.
The project is under the jurisdiction of the USACE, which contracted CJW Construction to conduct one-year operations for about $5 million.
At the June 25 meeting, Wood said dredging is having negative safety, noise, visual and economic impacts on the harbor and beaches during the busy summer tourist season.
Some specific complaints included unmarked dredge pipes in the water, beach dredge pipes left open, work noise, and view obstructions.
Wood also expressed doubt the job would be completed by the August permit deadline.
In an interview last Friday Greg Fuderer, USACE senior public affairs specialist, said all maritime regulations are being followed to mark dredging operations and keep boaters safe.
Fuderer added the exposed beach pipes will be buried as operations move south, and it is possible to do so.
Most of the large equipment that was stored on the beach has been moved to another location.
Fuderer said additional equipment has been secured to expedite operations, which are being stepped up to a 24/6 schedule. He said sand will not be continuously pumped onto beaches, but operations will be nonstop.
Dredging restarted on July 6. In one day, roughly 5,000 cubic yards of sand was dredged and pumped onto beaches.
USACE will provide the city a weekly update of progress.
Fuderer said, on doing the math, 10,000 cubic yards needs to be moved daily to fulfill the August deadline. He said he is confident it will be accomplished.
He added 10,000 cubic yards per day is the maximum capacity the company is able to move.
“To ensure the completion of the project and successful performance, we’ll manage, monitor and do everything we can,” Fuderer said.
In an interview on Monday, Kern said he does not believe the job can be completed by the August deadline with the present company and equipment. He added it’s likely the dredging permit deadline will need to be extended.
“It’s a freakin’ disaster,” Kern said. “The equipment is too small, the pipe is too small, the surf is high so they have to shut down.”
Annual dredging is crucial to allow the safe passage of boats in and out of the harbor.
Kern said there were a couple of days Oceanside Adventures, a whale watching tour company, was not able to exit the harbor because of lack of clearance due to a low tide and delayed dredging. He added some parts of the harbor are now 6-feet deep.
“It’s a hazard to navigate,” Kern said.
Beaches are also feeling the impact. Tourists have less sand to enjoy, and beachfront facilities and homes are more vulnerable to high tide damage without sand to protect them.
Kern said the only silver lining is the city did not commit $600,000 for additional dredging, and will have those funds available next year, when operations are run more efficiently.