VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - Sailors, fishermen and other boaters are learning to navigate around a major dredging project in the Channel Islands Harbor.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started the project last month.
Without weather or other delays it is scheduled to be completed in February.
The goal is to remove sand that has been trapped in the harbor. The sand removed won't go to waste. All the excess sand is being pushed through pipes to replenish Silver Strand and Port Hueneme beaches.
The hydraulic dredge is working around the clock at the entrance of the harbor and a sand trap area by the break wall and Hollywood Beach.
The harbor, built in the 1960s, is usually dredged every other year with legislative authorization.
Congress approved $13 million for the project that will protect Naval installations at Port Hueneme and Point Mugu, as well as the deep sea Port of Hueneme.
The Navy also allocated funds.
During the 2018/2019 winter dredging project about 2 million cubic yards of sand was pumped out of the Channel Islands Harbor and used to protect beaches from erosion and sand migration that occurs along the coast.
Channel Islands Harbor Deputy Director Suzy Watkins said, "The dredging is a Federal project authorized by Congress. As the local agency sponsor the county's role is to support full Federal funding and assist the Army Corps of Engineers with logistics on the ground as they execute the project. We are grateful to our Federal sponsors and partners including the offices of Julia Brownley who support full Federal funding and the Army Corps of Engineers who do a great job executing this project every 2 years with whatever appropriations Congress provides them. "
She said the hydraulic dredge owned by the Manson Company is called H.R. Morris.
Here at the county, we are always happy to see the H.R. Morris come in and begin moving sand down coast to protect valuable infrastructure including the city of Port Hueneme, the two Navy bases and the coastal wetlands."
Ventura County Harbor Department Director Mark Sandoval issued a statement thanking Congresswoman Julia Brownley for once again fighting for the funding.
“The Harbor Department would like to thank Congresswoman Brownley, who has steadfastly fought alongside local leaders to secure funding for these critical projects in Ventura County,” said Sandoval.
“This project is vital to the beaches down coast from the Channel Islands Harbor which are subject to continual erosion, and to maintaining safe navigation in and out of the Channel Islands Harbor.”
Captain Jake Hensley of the Ranger 85 sportfishing boat said he has seen some close calls when it comes to boats getting too close to equipment.
"Us going out at night, and having to maneuver around the dredges is fine, as long as you take it slow, and use your radar, and use your skills, pay attention. They are on Channel 67 on the VHF or Channel 16. If you have any questions be sure to ask them. They are more than willing to help out, move the dredge if they have to. Just be really careful. Make sure you are going in and out on the right side or left side. Ask them what side to go in, ya know, communicate with them, and it will make life a lot easier and safer. We talk to them every time we come in and out."
Silver Strand jogger Scotty O'Friel said he can hear the dredging off in the distance.
"You just hear big boulders coming through and you know they are moving just cubic yards of sand all the way across to Hueneme," said O'Friel.
"Keep off Pipe" is painted on the side of the pipe along the beach as a warning not to sit or lean on the pipe that is buried in the sand along Silver Strand.
A similar dredging project takes place regularly in the Santa Barbara Harbor at other times of year.