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LA District engineers visit projects in 3 California central coast counties

Los Angeles District
Published July 12, 2021
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Supervisory Civil Engineer Steve Dwyer and commander Col. Julie Balten discuss projects, June 29, 2021, at Ventura Beach, California. Ventura Harbor District is partnered with the Corps to maintain the busy harbor.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Supervisory Civil Engineer Steve Dwyer and commander Col. Julie Balten discuss projects, June 29, 2021, at Ventura Beach, California. Ventura Harbor District is partnered with the Corps to maintain the busy harbor.

LOS ANGELES – Over the course of four long days on the road – June 28 to July 1 – senior leaders with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District met with city and county government representatives of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties during visits to multiple job sites.

“We’re visiting all of our navigation projects up and down the central coast, so we can determine what the needs are going to be for funding for fiscal year 2022,” said LA District Deputy Engineer David Van Dorpe. “All of the ports and harbors look to be in very good condition. We’re very pleased with the work our dredging contractors have been performing.”

Van Dorpe said the Corps and sponsors of the coastal projects have enduring partnerships to continue the dredging program for the LA District.

The journey began June 28 at the Port of Hueneme for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of a port-deepening project. The project deepened the harbor from 35 to 40 feet, according to LA District Commander Col. Julie Balten.

“It’s a great feat, and it just goes to show the commitments that we have for economic vitality and ensuring our port infrastructure for many years to come,” she said. “I think that’s just such a big win for everyone and for the Port of Hueneme.”

As an added benefit from the port deepening and maintenance dredging at nearby Channel Islands, about 2.1 million cubic yards of dredged material provided beach replenishment to local beaches, including Hueneme Beach.

The LA District team then traveled north to meet with representatives from the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and the City of Santa Barbara. After a briefing, Santa Barbara County Flood Control District Director Tom Fayram led the Corps team on a visit to Lower Mission Creek, a joint effort by the county and the Corps. The multi-purpose project is to enhance flood protection, help protect endangered species and riparian habitats, and promote recreational opportunities for Santa Barbara.

The Corps leaders’ second travel day, June 29, started with an early morning visit to a completed bluff protection project and beach public-access staircase project in Pismo Beach. Balten and her team met with LA District Project Manager Susie Ming at Memory Park in Pismo, and together, with Pismo Mayor Ed Waage and his staff, descended the new stairs to the rocky shore for a closer look at the bluff-protection project. The project was completed through a partnership between Pismo Beach and the Corps.

“The quality of the work was very good. The sponsor is very pleased with the performance of the project,” Van Dorpe said. “The Pismo Beach bluff protection serves as a great example of how we can work with our sponsors and resource agencies to find an amenable solution that will fit everyone’s needs.”

While on the beach, the engineers discussed the completed project and future partnerships between the city and Corps.

Leaving Pismo Beach, the next visit was San Luis Obispo to see Port San Luis, a small craft harbor near the coastal community of Avila Beach. Representatives with the port and the Corps share a long partnership keeping the harbor safe. The original breakwater at Port San Luis is one of the oldest structures in the Los Angeles District, dating back to before the 1900s. Significant repairs were made to the breakwater in 1936, and periodic repairs have been made since. Port San Luis Harbor Manager Andrea Lueker met with the LA District leaders, before a harbor patrol boat provided an informative tour of the harbor with Port Facilities Manager Chris Munson. Dolphins glided by as sea otters, seals and seabirds were seen sunning on the breakwater during the harbor tour.

Morro Bay was one of the final stops heading northwest, June 29, to meet with Mayor John Headding. The group toured the bay’s calm waters – motoring slowly past the town’s massive, iconic rock and breakwater – aboard a Morro Bay Harbor patrol boat, operated by Harbor Patrol Supervisor Becka Kelly. The Morro Bay breakwater was constructed by the LA District in the 1940s with Navy funds to provide a base for small patrol vessels. The breakwater was rebuilt in 1957, and, again, in 1964. The Corps completed dredging the harbor before summer to ensure continued safe passage for vessels.

On Wednesday, the Corps team turned southward again to Santa Barbara, this time for Balten, Van Dorpe and LA District Navigation Branch Chief Steve Dwyer to meet with Brian Adair, city waterfront facilities manager, to discuss projects in the harbor. The harbor was recently dredged through a Corps’ project in partnership with the city. Maintenance dredging keeps the channel deep enough for the safe navigation of vessels. The federal government has conducted annual dredging in Santa Barbara Harbor since 1972.

Wrapping up the coastal-projects road trip July 1, the Corps’ team met with the Ventura County Watershed District for an overview of upcoming projects. Watershed Protection Director Glenn Shephard briefed the LA District leaders.

“Today’s focus is to look at existing projects going forward because part of the legacy of a great partnership is the enduring relationship that makes forward progress and momentum possible,” Shephard said.

Following the meeting, the group boarded a bus to visit Santa Paula Creek with LA District Project Manager Jim Hutchinson, who updated the group about the project.

“We certainly appreciate the colonel and David Van Dorpe’s time, along with staff, to come out to Ventura County and visit the Corps’ projects they’ve built with respect to flood protection,” Shephard said. “It’s a whole host of projects that started after World War II. It’s been a wonderfully successful partnership.”

Shephard noted Ventura County’s partnership with the Corps dates back to 1947.

Capping off the trip, Balten and Van Dorpe boarded a Ventura County Fire Department helicopter for an aerial view of Matilija Dam and watershed areas across the county.

“It’s definitely been a busy week, but it’s been fantastic meeting our partners and seeing what we’ve done for our communities and harbors to allow them to remain open and vital for commercial fishermen, as well as the Coast Guard,” Balten said. “It’s been an opportunity to see all of that.”