US Army Corps of Engineers
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Annual dredging project no small task for district

Los Angeles District
Published May 13, 2013
The dredging project deepened the federal channel north of Oceanside Pier and filled the beach adjacent to the pier with fresh, uncontaminated sand.

The dredging project deepened the federal channel north of Oceanside Pier and filled the beach adjacent to the pier with fresh, uncontaminated sand.

Western snowy plover chicks like these hatch upon the soft sands of Pacific beaches.  One of the benefits of this dredging project puts fresh new sand on Oceanside Beach for snowy plovers to use during nesting season. (File photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Western snowy plover chicks like these hatch upon the soft sands of Pacific beaches. One of the benefits of this dredging project puts fresh new sand on Oceanside Beach for snowy plovers to use during nesting season. (File photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

OCEANSIDE, Calif. – As far as dredging projects go, the one conducted from mid to late April at Oceanside Harbor seems pretty simple.

“The project entails dredging sand out of the federal navigation channel at Oceanside Harbor and placing it on a downcoast beach,” said Scott John, the project manager.  “Sand accretes naturally in the harbor entrance and it needs to be dredged out on an annual basis.”

Sand and sediment is dredged up from the harbor floor by specially-equipped ship and siphoned down to the beach a mile and a half away using a series of interconnected tubes that measure three feet in diameter. In this case, the pipeline stretches across a swath of San Diego County coastline in a nearly straight line to its final destination, making the whole operation appear quite easy.

The truth is that the project is a result of numerous environmental precautions geared toward ensuring protected wildlife is undisturbed by the project in any way.

“The western snowy plover, an endangered bird species, was detected on a beach area adjacent to our pipeline corridor, but outside the area of beach fill,” said Larry Smith, the project environmental coordinator.  “We will monitor all activities in the pipeline corridor during removal of the pipeline to ensure that we do not affect this species.”

The bird, which nests directly on the sands of the Pacific Ocean from Washington to South America between March and September, is federally protected.  Loss of this habitat, largely due to overdevelopment, is a key factor in the bird’s declining numbers.  Luckily, a benefit of the project will see 180,000 cubic yards of fresh sand placed back on the beach to offer the bird improved chances of survival.

Another well-known beach dweller made things interesting for district employees working on the project: the California grunion.  The fish, known for its unique nighttime spawning runs, was monitored heavily to ensure the project did not interfere with the natural course of events. Grunion typically spawn between March and August beginning on the nights of full and new moons.  The events usually draw crowds of people who want to witness the phenomenon and even catch the fish.

The predictable nature of the events allowed for proper planning to ensure that fish were not harmed.  “Beach fill occurred during two of the early season grunion runs,” Smith said.  “We monitored each run and shortened the beach fill to avoid impacts to areas that had observed grunion runs.”

The completion of the project is also planned at a time when the work is more feasibly performed due to the relative inactivity in the area.

“The project is timed to start at the end of the winter storm season when most of the sand is deposited in the entrance but before the summer beach season starts and there are too many people on the beaches to safely operate equipment,” John said. 

The project will ultimately benefit a litany of stakeholders in addition to the wildlife.

“Many users benefit from this project: the recreational boaters and commercial fisherman who keep their boats in the harbor, the City of Oceanside who collects revenue from the rental of boat slips, the U.S. Marine Corps, who operates a boat basin which they train out of, and beachgoers who will enjoy the city's beaches that are replenished with sand dredged from the harbor.”

The Los Angeles District is responsible for 14 harbors along the Southern California coast stretching from San Diego Harbor near the Mexican border to Morro Bay Harbor on California's central coast.  The district’s navigation mission provides safe, reliable, efficient, effective, and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems for movement of commerce, national security needs and recreation. Responsibilities include planning and constructing new navigation channels, ports, and harbors, and maintaining channel depths along coastal channels, ports, and harbors.