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 Army Corps of Engineers harbor dredging nationwide. The cuts affect harbors with less than 25,000 tons of commerce and where the federal government has jurisdiction over the waterways.
Marina del Rey, Oceanside and nine other harbors in Southern California would face financing cuts. Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors would not be affected.
If Congress agrees to cut dredging funds from the budget, the million-dollar cost of removing sediment and sand buildup in the channels leading to the harbors would 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, which operates Oceanside Harbor. “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 Marina del Rey channel. Bourdon said county lawyers are considering legal action.
“For the federal government just to abdicate its responsibility is incorrect,” Bourdon said.
Perry Davis, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, tried to downplay the potential effect of the cut, saying it is proposed only for the 1990 budget. He said there is a chance the projects could get financing in the 1991 budget.
Davis acknowledged that the federal government has maintenance agreements with many recreational harbors, but he 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, receives funding 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.
Marina del Rey is the county’s largest revenue producer. However, the Board of Supervisors has used part of the marina’s annual $20-million income to finance other county projects, delaying many capital improvement projects at the marina.
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. This year, dredging will be done at the bottom of the main channel, which has not been dredged since the marina was built nearly 30 years ago, Bourdon said.
Manues said Oceanside’s harbor was dredged last year, but because of a design flaw in the breakwater, the harbor must 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 he said could not be absorbed in his $4-million annual budget.
Manues said he hopes the harbor can be spared the cuts because of its status as a shared harbor with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“We’re trying to lobby Washington,” he said. “I am optimistic, but it is not an easy battle.”
The nine other harbors that would be affected by the cuts are Channel Islands, Dana Point, Mission Bay, Newport Bay, Redondo Beach, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Port San Luis and Morro Bay.
However, some of those harbors, including Redondo Beach, Newport Bay and Dana Point, would not feel any effect because they do not need regular dredging.
“At Dana Point, the corps has not dredged since the harbor was built in 1970,” said Tom Rossmiller, assistant civil engineer for the Orange County Department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks. “Since 1958, the corps has spent $484,973 for maintenance of the Newport harbor. That’s essentially dredging the channel once a decade.”
Sheila Schoettger, Redondo Beach Harbor director, said the cut would have little effect for King Harbor because the city pays for its own dredgings and because most dredgings occur in the interior of the harbor.
Schoettger said the harbor was last dredged 20 years ago.