The 5th Annual Sand Sculpture Contest in Port Hueneme has been canceled this year — but not for a lack of participants. Hueneme Beach, you see, is rapidly running out of sand.
In reality, Hueneme Beach Park itself could be considered a 20-acre sand sculpture — fluctuating in size and shape from year to year.
When the Navy built the jetties at the Port of Hueneme in 1940, they interrupted the littoral flow of sand to Hueneme Beach while also creating a corrosive eddy current that scours away 1.25 million cubic yards of seashore every year.
Two federal laws mandate that the Army Corps of Engineers replenish the lost sand.
The Water Resources Development Act of 1996 sanctioned a 100 percent federal cost share split between the Department of the Navy and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Since 1960, however, the powers that be have been behaving like a deadbeat dad on the run. The volume of sand transported by the Army Corps has steadily declined from an average of 1.5 million cubic yards during the first decade to a current 600,000.
Since Army Corps activities are subject to the congressional appropriations process, during this recession “It’s the economy, stupid” has become its tired mantra.
Granted, sand replenishment is expensive. It costs more than $5.35 million to move just 600,000 cubic yards.
Yet, Army Corps representatives don’t seem at all concerned that their dwindling sand deliveries — coming up various degrees of short during past decades — have now created an emergency situation for the second time.
When Hueneme Beach eroded to Surfside Drive after a significant deficit in 1994, emergency funding came through. Now, however, city of Port Hueneme has been told that it’s on its own.
Since January, ferocious winds, abnormally high tides and killer waves have washed away nearly 1 million cubic yards of the sand transported last year. And destructive winter storms have yet to descend upon the Friendly City by the Sea.
The Army Corps, however, only plans to move 600,000 cubic yards of sand during the next three cycles. This amount totals less than 25 percent of the replacement rate identified in the 1996 Water Resources and Development Act. Try paying one-fourth of what you owe your creditors, and see how that goes.
It only works, apparently, if you are the federal government.
So let’s talk about money. One of the complications with this share-split business is that the smaller the appropriation by the Army Corps, the smaller the amount coughed up by the Navy, since they pay a fixed percentage of each allotment. Port Hueneme has been asked to play limbo — how low can you go?
In the meantime, nobody is leaning on the Navy (who caused the problem in the first place) to insist it pays a fair share.
Furthermore, when you look at who actually benefits from the jetties (which were ostensibly constructed to keep the harbor entrance calm as well as silt-free), who isn’t paying at all?
The first entity that comes to mind is the Port of Hueneme. In addition, it will definitely have something to lose if Hueneme Beach Park disappears.
The port recently rebuilt a riprap revetment along the Lighthouse Promenade. Once the sand is history, its sea wall will be subjected to a life-shortening pounding.
Perhaps a cost-benefit analysis might convince the port to pony up.
The second, Channel Islands Harbor, actually benefits from having its sand trap relieved every two years.
Yet, with less sand being transported because of cost, its sand trap will eventually overflow and create a navigational hazard.
Perhaps throwing some money in the pot will also pay off for Channel Islands Harbor in the long run.
So what can be done long term? I’d like to see one of those brilliant military engineers redesign the jetties so as to minimize scouring of beaches to the south.
That’s the best solution, and like the parent paying child support, when his kid turns 18, all parties would be released from fiscal responsibility.
And think about how happy it would make Mother Nature.
The city of Port Hueneme plans to armor what is left of Hueneme Beach with strategically placed boulders — yet, rocks don’t roll for free. Their cost will lighten the already stretched-to-the-max Port Hueneme coffers by a cool million.
Elected officials are also attempting to coax another million from California Boating and Waterways.
Thursday, Port Hueneme, which will be enjoying a balmy 69 degrees, will welcome hundreds of day-trippers celebrating the Fourth.
In addition to roasting weenies or braving the water, we hope you will be sculpting sand castles as well.
We only ask one thing — please bring your own sand.