Ventura Harbor’s 10-year dredging program approved by Coastal Commission

Up to 700,000 cubic yards would be dredged annually through 2026.

NEWPORT BEACH — The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a 10-year dredging maintenance program for Ventura Harbor during the second day of its three-day September meetings at Newport Beach City Hall.

The dredging program would be implemented through April 18, 2026 and allow up to 100,000 cubic yards of material to be dredged annually from the inner harbor and another 600,000 cubic yards annually from the outer harbor.

Inner harbor dredging would take place within the navigational channels, berthing areas and sand traps; dredged materials would be relocated within the surf zone near the mouth of the Santa Clara River, at three interior depressions within the harbor, and/or the nearshore area of McGrath State Beach.

Materials from the entrance channel and offshore sand traps will be deposited along 10,000 feet of beach south of the harbor’s lower jetty and McGrath State Beach, at the surf zone north of the harbor entrance, and/or the nearshore area off San Buenaventura State Beach and just south of Ventura Pier.

“The dredging and deposition period is proposed to occur after Labor Day in September until Memorial Day in May of the following year, subject to timing constraints for resource protection. This timing will avoid peak public beach usage during summer months,” commission staff stated in a report to commissioners.

Commission staff also identified sensitive species and habitats requiring protection during annual dredging projects.

“Several sensitive species are present in the project area including the California brown pelican, western snowy plover, California least tern, steelhead trout, tidewater goby and California grunion,” commission staff stated in its report. “There is dune habitat present on South Beach and McGrath State Beach. Staff recommends that the [Coastal Development Permit] be conditioned to ensure the protection of marine resources and environmentally sensitive habitats/species.”

As with all dredging projects the Ventura Port District must conduct eelgrass surveys.

The staff report stated the dredging program would “avoid or minimize impacts to environmentally sensitive habitat and species within the project area.”

The Coastal Commission’s action came almost eight months after the Ventura Port District battled shoaling at the harbor’s entrance.

A sandbar formed at the Ventura Harbor entrance on Jan. 17. More than 240,000 cubic meters of sand collected at the harbor’s entrance during the first two weeks of 2016, making it difficult for commercial and recreational vessels to access local marinas or the Pacific Ocean.

The sand trap was blamed on El Niño conditions. Emergency dredging was required to allow vessel traffic to flow through the harbor entrance.

Shoaling caused Ventura Harbor Village to lose out on hosting two tallships in January and February. The tallship exhibition relocated to Channel Islands Harbor in neighboring Oxnard.

The shoaling event also caused one marina operator to lose a pair of slip reservation, as the visiting boaters were not able to enter the harbor.

(Photo by Parimal M. Rohit)

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