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Oceanside Beaches Won’t Get Additional Sand This Summer

Waves on the breakwater at the mouth of Oceanside harbor, May 22, 2018.

Photo by Alison St John

Above: Waves on the breakwater at the mouth of Oceanside harbor, May 22, 2018.

Oceanside is preparing for the summer season without the benefit of fresh sand pumped onto its beaches. The annual dredging of the entrance to Oceanside harbor has been delayed. The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the contract, failed to get the necessary permits in time.

Two problems are created when the mouth of the harbor is not dredged: The most obvious is that thousands of yards of sand are not spread on the beach, making them ready for the summer visitors. But boats may also have difficulty getting in and out of the harbor, as sand builds up at the entrance.

In 2016 there were problems when the dredging contractors equipment proved too small for the choppy waters in the mouth of the harbor and took all summer to dredge the required amount of sand.

Last year was a successful operation: more than 450,000 cubic yards of sand was moved, almost twice what the Army Corps needed to dredge to clear the harbor entrance.

The City of Oceanside benefits from the Army Corps’ annual dredging operation because, like all the coastal cities in North County, its beaches are getting narrower as winter storms wash sand down the coast. The Corps is contracted by the federal government to clear out the mouth of the harbor, which serves as the entrance to both the Navy's harbor and almost a thousand boats and yachts moored in Oceanside’s municipal harbor.

The Navy pays half the cost of the dredging operation; the Army Corps covers the rest. The City of Oceanside adds several hundred thousand dollars a year to take advantage of the opportunity to replenish its beaches, sometimes extending the dredging operation beyond what is needed to clear the harbor entrance.

Oceanside lifeguard Lieutenant Blake Faumuina said delaying the dredging means a narrower beach for visitors, and possible problems for boaters as the year goes on.

“The harbor mouth can be a concern when we don’t get our summer dredging,” Faumuina said, “The sand builds up all summer long in the harbor mouth, which makes it very shallow and subject to a lot of wave action. That’s not good for boaters: when we see more waves in the summer and into the fall, we definitely have more boating accidents.”

Jay Field, Public Affairs Officer for the Army Corps in Los Angeles, said the dredging has been postponed at least until the fall, or even next spring. He said a survey crew continues to monitor the depth at the entrance of the harbor.

Oceanside Public Works Director Kiel Koger said if the entrance to the harbor is not dredged, it can affect the boats moored inside.

“As the sand builds up, it can act as a reef and that can actually generate some waves in the harbor,” he said, “and that’s something we don’t want, we want calm waters in the harbor.”

Koger said the city also relies on the sand to keep the beach healthy after winter storms.

“That’s the problem: Year after year you’re slowly losing a little bit." he said, "And you know, some of our beaches, they’re full of rocks and there’s just not much sand there, so we desperately need it.”

Oceanside saw a 10 percent increase in tourism last year with visitors spending about $350 in the community. The beach and the harbor are major attractions.

Video by Matt Bowler

Oceanside is preparing for the summer season without the benefit of fresh sand pumped onto its beaches. The annual dredging of the Oceanside harbor mouth has been delayed.

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