What’s the old proverb? “Half a loaf is better than none”? Yet, you would have a thorny time convincing anybody to express appreciation for half a parking space or half a lifeboat or especially half a brassiere.
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 scrubs away 1.25 million cubic yards of seashore annually.
Two federal laws mandate that the Army Corps of Engineers replenish the lost sand.
The River and Harbor Act of 1954 authorized the creation of the Channel Islands Harbor sand trap, whose contents were to be used to nourish down-coast beaches.
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 federal government has been behaving like a typical deadbeat dad. 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 the 600,000 cubic yards delivered during the last replenishment cycle.
In addition, the sand trap at Channel Islands Harbor is choking on 3 million cubic yards of sand, a good million more than it was designed to handle. Furthermore the buildup, according to Lyn Kreiger, director of the Ventura County Harbor Department, threatens to cause a navigation hazard in the small boat harbor.
The next biannual dredge was not scheduled to occur until fall 2015. However, according to a news release by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, she “worked with her House and Senate colleagues, including Sen. Feinstein, to provide additional funds in the (fiscal year) 2014 Omnibus Appropriations legislation for the backlog of harbor maintenance projects across the nation.”
While the powers-that-be with the city of Port Hueneme and Channel Islands Harbor expressed their sincere gratitude when asked to comment on Brownley’s March 4 announcement that nearly $12 million in federal funding to dredge Channel Islands Harbor and to replenish sand at Hueneme Beach would be available — what they diplomatically kept to themselves was, “it’s not enough.”
First of all, the actual allotment translates into less than $11.4 million. Add it up: the Navy’s 19 percent (or approximately $1.8 million) plus $4.4 million from the Army Corps of Engineers Fall 2014 Work Plan (minus 2 percent in administrative costs) plus the $5.3 million from the White House’s fall 2015 budget request.
Secondly, the Army Corps of Engineers hires the dredging company and apparently only one of three concerns worldwide does business on the West Coast. You’ve all played the game Monopoly. Apparently the sand dredging business is a textbook example of unfettered capitalism.
So what’s the harm in that? Up to half of a dredging budget can disappear down the pit of unspecified “set up costs,” leaving colossally inadequate capital to pump.
The ideal situation would be one in which oodles of competition exist, negotiation by the concerned parties replaces the Corps’ lowest bidder process and fees charged were simple, straightforward and evenhanded.
Not only is Greg Brown the city of Port Hueneme staff person who has been dealing with the two-year sand replenishment cycles for nearly a quarter of a century, but he has also researched the Corps’ abstract for bids that apply to the fall 2014 dredge cycle in which the emergency sand replenishment allotment will play a role.
He estimates that the full $12 million would only provide 2.152 to 2.328 million cubic yards of sand to Hueneme Beach. That’s about 1.2 million cubic yards less than the 3.5 million cubic yards that have already built up in the Channel Islands Harbor sand trap and $4.8 million to $6.48 million less than the money required to pump the 3.5 million cubic yards of sand necessary to restore the beach.
Third and finally, this emergency harbor dredging and sand replenishment effort doesn’t do anything about 2016, when 2 million to 3 million cubic yards of sand will have again disappeared.
Without a permanent biannual allocation, or better still, a permanent allocation plus a redesign of the jetties to minimize scouring of beaches to the south, it will be déjà vu all over again. It is interesting to note that a 2001 feasibility study (costing $100,000) got through a congressional committee in 2001 but died in the wake of 9/11.
Perhaps Congress, content to dole out half a loaf once again, might learn from that esteemed philosopher, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” who opined, “The moral of the story is, I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again.”