With a major dredging project in Marina del Rey set to begin before the end of the year, Los Angeles County officials expect navigation through the north entrance of the Marina’s main channel to become much safer.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $1.6 million in funding Wednesday, November 8th, toward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge the Marina north entrance, an area designated as a federal channel.

The approval has secured all the necessary funding to begin the approximately $2.4 million project, county officials said.

The Corps of Engineers will provide about $1.4 million of the project funding from the federal budget, while the county will cover the remaining costs. Any portion of the county’s contribution that is unused will be returned to the county budget, officials said.

Navigation through the north entrance of the Marina has become severely restricted and hazardous due to the buildup of sand around the north jetty, county officials said.

Lt. Greg Nelson of the Sheriff’s Department Marina station, who is also the Marina harbormaster, said the shoaling at the north entrance to the Marina has been growing in size.

Sand from beaches in Venice has apparently swept southward and is extending the current footprint into the Marina north entrance from the north jetty, Nelson said.

Nelson praised the dredging project, which is intended to return the north entrance to its design depth of 20 feet.

“It’s sorely needed because the north entrance is more than 65 percent occluded,” he said.

As part of the project, the clean sand that is removed from the north entrance will be transported to an area offshore of Dockweiler Beach near Imperial Highway in Playa del Rey to assist in beach replenishment.

With the current shoaling condition at the Marina north entrance, Sheriff’s Department officials have encouraged boaters to use extreme caution when navigating the area.

Shoal buoys have been placed off the north jetty to warn boaters, but some boaters have not obeyed the warnings and have gone aground after cutting through on the wrong side of the buoys, Nelson said.

Marina Sheriff’s Department officials were concerned that the north entrance might have to be closed during the winter because of the conditions, but with the dredging project set to begin, the area can remain open, he said.

The last time the Marina was dredged by the Corps of Engineers was between October 1999 and March 2000.

County officials said the dredging work will help ensure that mariners can safely use the north entrance and that Marina law enforcement and emergency vessels will be unobstructed as they travel through the area for emergency responses.

“Our focus is to make sure that the channel stays open,” said Dusty Crane, county Department of Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman.

In addition to creating a safe navigational route through the north entrance, the dredging will allow for replenishment of the Dockweiler Beach area, county officials said.

The sand removed in the dredging will be placed in 30-foot-deep water off Dockweiler, where it will be gradually moved onshore by ocean currents to replenish Dockweiler and other South Bay beaches.

While the sand in the Marina south entrance has some contaminants from Ballona Creek, the north entrance sand is clean and doesn’t need to be treated, Nelson said.

“This dredging project is going to lead to a number of important benefits for our community,” county Supervisor Don Knabe said. “Also important is the improvement in public safety for navigating in and out of the channel for the 5,000 privately-owned vessels in the Marina.

“Finally, Dockweiler and our other South Bay beaches will benefit from a much-needed infusion of new sand, thanks to the replenishment project.”

The dredging project is scheduled to begin in December and be completed by March 15th, with work expected to take place 24 hours a day, six or seven days a week.

Department of Beaches and Harbors officials plan to work with other agencies to ensure that local residents, businesses and boaters are kept informed of the project’s progress and any potential impact on services.

Throughout the operation, additional buoys will be placed to help mariners avoid impacted areas in the Marina entrance. Mariners will also be advised to avoid the sand placement area off Dockweiler Beach.