The Coast News Group

Delays causing concern over sand dredging efforts

OCEANSIDE — After a late start to begin this year’s harbor dredging and beach sand replenishments, big swells added further delays to operations that are usually completed by Memorial Day.

Dredging to remove 260,000 cubic yards of sand buildup at the mouth of Oceanside Harbor began on June 7.

To date 35,000 cubic yards of sand has been dredged and pumped onto city beaches. The expected rate of operations is 10,000 cubic yards of sand a day.

Work is contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to remove sand accumulation caused by Camp Pendleton marina and jetties.

CJW Construction, based in Santa Ana, was hired by USACE to do this year’s work with a two-year contract extension option. Jay Field, USACE chief of public affairs Los Angeles district, said the small company has a solid reputation and has successfully completed dredging and other work for USACE.

Still, every harbor is different.

Swells in Oceanside Harbor have caused operations to take an on-again-off-again work schedule, and since June 19, work has been temporarily suspended.

The city has issues with the company’s use of a smaller sized 18-inch pipe to dredge sand, and lacks confidence the company has the equipment on site to move 260,000 cubic yards of sand by the permit deadline of Aug. 2.

There is also concern about the company’s announcement it will not be able to bury pipes on the beach as operations move south. In a letter to USACE on June 22, Mayor Jim Wood said, “This is entirely unacceptable due to the number of special events planned as well as normal beach usage.”

The letter also cited timing, safety, economic and performance issues, and asked the company not be rehired next year.

During high swells two small crafts were knocked down. City staff is associating this with breakwater caused from dredging operations.

Boaters have reported that the dredging company isn’t responsive to radio calls, and that there are unmarked dredge pipes in the water.

Hoteliers and short-term rental owners have reported complaints over work noise, view obstructions and inconveniences that have caused them financial lose. North Coast Village, located directly in front of beach sand replenishment operations, reported a $14,000 loss due to the ongoing work.

Wood said he is not pleased the operations are impacting the harbor and beaches especially during the busy tourist season.

“I’m upset they’re not doing the job, and for public safety,” Wood said.

To address complaints, a meeting was held at the harbor on Saturday with the dredging company, USACE, Congressman Darrell Issa, Wood, Councilman Jerry Kern, Assistant City Manager Deanna Lorson, and Harbor Manager Paul Lawrence.

As a result of the meeting, the company will bring in a water jet to attach to the cutter head that will enhance sand flow and expedite operations.

Prior to Saturday’s meeting, a safety zone and markers to keep boats at a safe distance from dredging operations had been established at the onset of the project.

On the beach, equipment to pump sand has been stored behind a fenced area. Some equipment was spotted outside of the fenced area, and once noted was moved inside. Additional screening was added to the fencing last Friday to lessen the visual impact. Efforts are also being made to find another temporary storage area for equipment.

Wood said the city is not satisfied with all of the answers it received on Saturday, and the company’s work so far. Oceanside will not go forward with paying the company another $600,000 in city funds for additional dredging.

On Monday the mayor sent a second city letter to USACE expressing the city’s dissatisfaction and doubt the job will be completed.

In part he said, “We have no confidence whatsoever in your contractor being able to complete the Corps’ portion of the dredging efforts let alone additional dredging on behalf of the city.”

Field said he is confident in the dredging company, and feels operations were handicapped due to the late start. USACE will begin the bidding process earlier in future years to avoid start delays.

“We’ve done a lot of work with this company,” Field said. “The company has demonstrated they can perform work within budget and on time.”

Field added at this point it’s necessary to let the company get the job done within the permitted time.

“The primary purpose of dredging is to provide safe navigation in a critical federal and naval channel,” Field said. “A secondary benefit is adding rescued sand to beaches. We know the impact to the community, we’re hopeful to move forward and get this important work done.”

Operations will resume July 5, weather conditions permitting.

This story has been corrected since its original posting.