DANA POINT – The heavy rainstorms that hit Southern California earlier this month helped remind Dana Point Harbor boaters of the bay’s problem areas, specifically the sand bar, as shoaling increased the navigational hazard’s size and width.
In a Dana Point Boaters Association (DPBA) Boater’s Blast issued Saturday, March 1, organizers explained that the weekend storms began to take a toll on the outer channel of Dana Point Harbor, “making the ever growing sand bar at the breakwater, already a serious problem, now dangerously longer and wider.”
“This is a grounding hazard, especially for deep-keeled sailboats,” said James Lenthall, vice president of DPBA. “Several boats have already grounded at the shoal, including several sailboats at the end of a race last summer (before the additional buoy was installed).”
DPBA officers emailed OC Dana Point Harbor Director Brad Gross on Saturday, March 4 to bring the growing shoal to the attention of the county and Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol. Although it has no doubt that the county is aware of the problem area, the association simply wants Dana Point boaters to be aware of the hazard, and to be assured that OC Dana Point Harbor and the Harbor Patrol is monitoring the size of the shoal, taking proper measures to mitigate the risk, and planning to dredge in a timely manner
“Our intention was to bring the growing shoal to our boaters’ attention, to warn them of the growing navigational hazard within Dana Point Harbor,” Lenthall said.
Gross explained that the county and Harbor Patrol were already working on getting the buoys in place when he received the email. Two additional buoys were placed on Tuesday, March 4 the situation will continue to be monitored. Harbor Patrol will relocate the shoal buoys as required, he added.
Boaters transiting the harbor are familiar with the shoal that currently extends nearly the entire length of the inside of the mile-long outer breakwater, not deeper than 3 or 4 feet at low tide.
However, the shoal is shallowest and widest at the northwest end of the breakwater near the headlands, Lenthall said, “This is where the hazard is greatest”
According to DPBA, for the first approximately 1,500 feet of the breakwater, the shoal extends as much as 150 feet into the channel, and only a few feet deep even at high tide; at low tide much of it is exposed as a sandbar (locally referred to as Danalina Beach). There are shoal buoys that fairly accurately outline the shoal; an additional buoy was added last summer to account for the growing shoal.
The shoal grows naturally over time, and is maintained every few years when the Harbor Department has the harbor dredged.
But the natural process starts all over.
“Last weekend’s stormy weather and extreme surf dramatically displayed the shoal and sandbar,” Lenthall explained, “and probably contributed incrementally to its growth, but the shoal is always there.”
The torrential rainfall and current state of the shoal may expedite a dredging project scheduled to begin in 2015 or 2016, he added.
The $3 million dredging project falls under the jurisdiction of the County of Orange and OC Dana Point Harbor.
“We are right on schedule for dredging,” Gross said. “We try to dredge every six to eight years depending on the shoaling “Last time we went eight years and if we stay on schedule we will get to it again in our seventh year,” he added. .
In the meantime, Lenthall advises boaters to be mindful of the shoal.
“To be careful to keep clear of the outer breakwater, especially at the northwest end near the headlands,” he said. “Stay at least 150 feet off the first 1,500 feet of the outer breakwater.”