Harbor dredging at Marina del Rey and many other recreational harbors is in jeopardy because of a proposed cut in the 1990 federal budget.
Among the cuts being proposed by President Bush is funding for the Army Corps of Engineers for harbor dredging nationwide. The cuts involve harbors with less than 25,000 tons of commerce, and where the federal government has jurisdiction over the waterways.
That includes Marina del Rey, Oceanside and nine other harbors in Southern California, but not the major harbors in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
If Congress cuts dredging funds from the budget, the million-dollar cost of removing sediment and sand buildup in the channels leading to the harbors will be shifted to local authorities.
“I don’t see where the local government could afford the dredging,” said Jim Manues, chief executive director of the Oceanside Harbor District. “Without the dredging, we would eventually shut down.”
Eric Bourdon, assistant director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the county has a written agreement obligating the federal government to maintain the channel. Reed said the county is exploring potential legal avenues.
“For the federal government just to abdicate its responsibility is incorrect,” Bourdon said.
Perry Davis, a spokesman for the Army Engineers, tried to soften the potential effect of the cut, saying it is being proposed only for the 1990 budget. Davis said there is a chance the projects could get funded in the 1991 budget.
Davis acknowledged that the federal government has maintenance agreements with many recreational harbors, but said the budget cuts may override those agreements.
“We generally take the responsibility for maintaining the navigation of the entrance and main channel, and the local operator is responsible for interior areas” where the boats are berthed, Davis said. “But we can’t do anything if there isn’t any money.”
The Corps of Engineers, which does military construction and flood control projects, draws its money from the Army’s civil works budget.
Marina del Rey and Oceanside would be two of the hardest hit harbors if the budget cut takes effect.
Although Marina del Rey is the county’s largest revenue producer, the Board of Supervisors has used part of the annual $20-million income to fund other county projects, delaying many marina capital improvement projects.
Bourdon said it would be difficult for the county to absorb the $1-million cost of dredging.
At Marina del Rey, sand builds up at the south entrance near Ballona Creek. It moves down the coast from northern beaches and out of the creek, Bourdon said.
The area around the jetty needs to be dredged every two or three years, he said. The dredging project for this year is the bottom of the main channel, which has not been dredged since the marina was built nearly 30 years ago, Bourdon said.
Oceanside’s Manues said his harbor was dredged last year, but because of a design flaw in the breakwater, the harbor needs to be dredged every 18 months.
“It has been a constant source of shoaling (buildup) at the entrance,” he said. “It has stopped the lateral flow of sand. Sand is deposited at the entrance. We then have to move the sand down-coast on the beach.” Manues said it costs about $600,000 a year to dredge the 1,000-boat harbor, an amount his $4-million annual budget cannot absorb.