Coastal Commission implements dredging program for Ventura Keys area

Four navigation channels will be dredged from harbor mouth.

SAN DIEGO — The California Coastal Commission approved the implementation of a Maintenance Dredging Program for four navigational channels at the Ventura Keys, Oct. 10; commissioners unanimously supported the project during their October meetings in San Diego.

The dredging project will cover 32 acres at an area near the entrance of Ventura Harbor.

“The navigation channels in the Ventura Keys are accessed from the mouth of the Ventura Harbor and are fringed with private recreational boat docks and associated residential development,” Coastal Commission staff stated in a report to commissioners. “The proposed maintenance dredging program would maintain the channels at the appropriate depth for boating and recreational uses, and would allow for approximately 350,000 cubic yards of material to be dredged over a ten-year project term, not to exceed 100,000 cubic yards in any one year.”

Sediment will be deposed at one of three sites: the surf zone near Pierpont Groin Field; the surf zone at the mouth of the Santa Clara River; and, the near-shore waters of Santa Clara River’s mouth.

“Dredging will be accomplished by means of hydraulic dredging, with pipeline deposition into designated surf zone areas or alternatively by means of clamshell dredging,” Coastal Commission staff explained in a report to commissioners. “While the deposition of dredge spoils as beach nourishment will replenish public beaches and thus increase access, deposition operations have the potential to adversely affect public access.”

The dredging project, consisted with current prohibitions, will not be allowed to take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Coastal Commission staff added there is “little to no vegetation … on most of the beach disposal site.”

There are, however, several sensitive fish and wildlife species present in the area, according to Coastal Commission staff. These species are the California brown pelican, California grunion, steelhead trout and tidewater goby.

Biological monitoring must take place before the start of dredging and after the project is completed “to ensure that significant adverse impacts to adjacent habitats and sensitive species are avoided.”

The city of Ventura is the applicant for the dredging project. The project term is for 10 years; development under the granted Coastal Commission permit, accordingly, must be completed by Oct. 10, 2028.

The Ventura Harbor entrance suffered from a significant shoaling event at the start of 2016. Navigational operations in and out of the harbor were severely limited as 240,000 cubic meters of sand filled the front of Ventura Harbor’s entrance. Recreational and commercial vessels alike were unable to go in and out of the harbor during significant stretches of time during the shoaling event.

Port district officials received several million dollars of funding to dredge the Ventura Harbor entrance, helping the venue return to its normal routine of servicing various boating and fishing interests.

Ventura Port District General Manager Oscar Peña, in a conversation with The Log during the shoaling event, said the stockpiling of sediment at the harbor entrance was likely the result of El Niño, which was certainly in effect in late 2015 and early 2016.

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