Ventura County collaborates with city of Oxnard to address water quality issues

Harbor Department chips in for purchase of sensors, allowing Oxnard city staff to study recent discoloration event.

VENTURA—Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of a water quality testing sensor for the city of Oxnard, Jan. 15. Oxnard’s city staff plans to use as many as four sensors to monitor water quality near Channel Islands Harbor.

The Oxnard Waterways area, which is just above and adjacent to Channel Islands Harbor, suffered from a water quality degradation episode last summer. Local residents observed a discoloration and cloudiness in the water last summer; the northernmost areas of the Oxnard Waterways area were most affected by the water quality degradation, according to Ventura County Harbor Department Director Mark Sandoval.

Oxnard Waterways is managed by the city of Oxnard, while Channel Islands Harbor falls under Ventura County’s jurisdiction.

Sandoval said the donation of water quality testing sensors was an act of “goodwill” from Ventura County to the city of Oxnard.

“This is a goodwill gesture, but I think it underscores the county’s commitment to partner with the city as they move forward to try to figure out what happened with the water quality episode,” Sandoval told commissioners.

Oxnard city staff and officials sought to purchase water quality testing sensors in response to last summer’s degradation episode and asked the county if it could assist with at least a portion of the purchase. Four sensors, in all, would be placed throughout the Oxnard Waterways to collect real-time water quality data. The data would allow city officials to implement remedial effects and, ideally, take steps to prevent a similar water quality degradation event from happening again.

Ventura County’s Harbor Department agreed to purchase one sensor, which cost about $27,000.

“These sensors will be located on private docks on the Oxnard Waterways,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval added the county would transfer ownership of the sensor purchased by the Harbor Department to the city of Oxnard. Transferring ownership to the city means the Harbor Department won’t be responsible for the sensor’s maintenance.

The Harbor Department director was quick to point out Channel Islands Harbor did not suffer from the same water quality degradation event as Oxnard Waterways did, even though both venues share the same harbor space.

“I don’t believe we’re at the same level of risk as the Oxnard Waterways. There are a couple reasons for that,” Sandoval said. “Since we’re closer to the mouth of the harbor, we are the beneficiaries of enhanced tidal interaction. Secondly, the water’s deeper, so it won’t warm up like it does back in the Oxnard Waterways.”

Channel Islands Harbor and Oxnard Waterways are separated by W. Channel Islands Boulevard Bridge.

Supervisor John C. Zaragoza called the water quality degradation event a “health and safety issue.”

Kelly Long, vice chair of Ventura County’s Board of Supervisor, asked if there was a larger plan in place to prevent a similar water quality degradation event from occurring again during the upcoming summer months.

Sandoval said the city of Oxnard is taking the lead in seeking remediation measures, with Ventura County merely assisting with the purchase of a sensor.

Water in the Oxnard Waterways turned brown in June 2018, affecting private marinas in several waterfront communities just above Channel Islands Harbor. A definitive answer as to why the discoloration occurred has not been offered. Many have argued, however, the water quality discoloration event occurred after a local energy generating stations tasked with circulating water nearby had been shut off.

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