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Oceanside Sand Dredging Operation Runs Into Problems

Photo by Promise Yee

Beachgoers use an access ramp to cross dredge pipes at an Oceanside beach north of Surfrider Way, July 22, 2016.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to extend a permit of the annual sand dredging project in Oceanside. The routine operation to remove sand from the mouth of Oceanside Harbor and use it to replenish city beaches has run into numerous delays.

City officials have called operations “a disaster” as high ocean swells and the new dredging company's small equipment has caused temporary work shutdowns and problems for boaters and beachgoers. Large pipes that carry sand across the beach are usually gone by Memorial Day, but are still currently working their way south from the north end of the beach.

The Army Corps oversees the annual dredging and has worked with the dredging company to bring in additional equipment to speed up the job and withstand the high waves.

“Our goal is always to get about 200,000 cubic yards and make the channel navigable for critical boats, commercial boating, recreational boating, fishing and naval operations,” said Col. Kirk Gibbs, commander of the Army Corps’ Los Angeles district. “Where we're at now, for this year, is about 30 percent of that goal. The weather has been a primary concern and a challenge for us.”

Gibbs said this year’s El Niño brought more sand than usual into the harbor's main channel.

The dredging project got off to a late start this year with a new contractor. Summer use of the harbor and beaches has impacted dredging operations and created a need to step up safety measures. Work was shutdown for the July Fourth weekend to avoid interfering with recreational use. Last week, there was a delay in moving dredge pipes on the beach because beachgoers had already set up chairs and umbrellas.

Gibbs said the Army Corps is resigned to the fact that the job will not be finished by the Aug. 4 permit deadline and is working to extend the permit through the end of August.

“We're working very closely with the city to get the harbor open, get the mission complete and to do that safely throughout the month of August until it is completed,” Gibbs said.

The first order of business remains clearing sand from the harbor.

“Re-nourishing the beaches with sand from this project, it's important to us, it's important to the city, but it is a secondary beneficial byproduct of our mission,” Gibbs said. “We're making progress to get that (channel) open, we will get that open.”

Promise Yee is a North County freelance writer. Contact her at promise.yee.1@gmail.com

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