The City of Port Hueneme has called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain emergency funding needed to replenish local beaches with sand before the rapidly eroding shoreline undermines roads and floods property, including harbor facilities.
Since January, high winds, abnormally high tides and large waves along the Ventura County coast have washed away about 1 million cubic yards of dredged sand the Army Corps places on Port Hueneme’s beach every two years.
In its most recent dredging operation, however, the agency was only able to deliver about 400,000 cubic yards of sand due to rising costs of fuel and equipment, and Army Corps budget restraints.
Now, with waves lapping up against seaside streets, the city of 21,000 people has canceled an August sand sculpture contest. It also plans to spend roughly $2 million of municipal funds on boulders to protect the most eroded stretches of coastline, city officials said.
“It’s unlikely the federal government will be able to come up with emergency funds,” Greg Brown, Port Hueneme’s community development director, said. “There’s no one coming to our rescue. So, it looks like we’re going to have to take care of ourselves.”
Construction of the deep-water port and its jetties in 1939 dramatically altered the down coast flow of sand along the city’s beaches, resulting in erosion and damage to public and private property, as well as the local port shared by the U.S. Navy.
In 1954, Congress authorized the Corps to construct a nearby sand trap and undertake biennial dredging of that sand to maintain the local shoreline.
“Ironically, there’s plenty of sand in the sand trap,” Brown said. “The problem is finding federal funds to move it over here.”
Port Hueneme City Councilman Jonathan Sharkey described the dilemma this way: “We’re dealing with the local effects of Washington politics.”
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Oak Park) is actively supporting the push for emergency funding for additional sand to halt the erosion Port Hueneme officials fear could worsen and eventually impact the nearby Ormond Beach wetlands, the site of ongoing environmental restoration efforts supported by local and state agencies.
But Jay Field, a spokesman for the Army Corps, said, “We have to find the money and there is no source of funding right now” for an out-of-cycle dredging operation.
The city is scheduled to receive its next load of sand from the Army Corps in late 2014. In the meantime, Brown said, “We’re praying for a mild winter.”