By Gary Walker
In an effort to make the work of first responders easier and lessen the possibility of boating hazards, Rep. Waxman (D-Venice) is urging Los Angeles County officials and the federal government to dredge the Marina del Rey channel more frequently.
The congressman sent a letter to Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general of the United States Army Corps of Engineers June 6, urging them to begin regular dredging of the marina’s harbors.
“Marina del Rey is an anchor for tourism, recreation, and public safety in Los Angeles. It is home to more than 5,000 boats, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” wrote Waxman, who also represents Marina del Rey.
“Although the Marina should be dredged every three to five years, it has experienced waits two and three times longer than that.”
The most recent sediment removal initiative took place last year. The Paula Lee, a 2,000-ton barge, scooped out approximately 760,000 cubic yards of sludge and sediment from the marina’s south channel and transported it to the Port of Long Beach.
The request by the congressman’s office comes two months after a visit from Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey. The supervisor and his staff visited Waxman in Washington, D.C. in April to ask him for federal assistance with the Marina, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of all dredging projects.
“He suggested that we do this at the federal level,” the congressman told The Argonaut.
Waxman said no current schedule exits for any maintenance of the Marina’s harbor.
“I understand that the Army Corps of Engineers provides funding and a dredging schedule for marinas that require annual dredging, but it does not do so for marinas like Marina del Rey that require dredging on a regular but less frequent basis,” the congressman said. “This policy is damaging to public safety and the economy in Southern California, and I urge the Army Corps to initiate regular dredging of the Marina.”
Knabe said when he travels to the nation’s capital he always makes sure to check in with the Corps of Engineers regarding dredging and he was pleased that Waxman, who is in his first year representing the area, was receptive to his request.
“We certainly appreciate the congressman’s interest and assistance on one of our ongoing efforts here in Marina del Rey,” he said.
Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman Carol Baker said the last major dredging effort in Marina del Rey prior to last year was in October 1999, according to records dating back to 1969, shortly after the Marina was created. Approximately 672,000 cubic yards of sediment were removed during that operation from the north and south channels.
“However, in 2007, it looks like another 327,000 cubic yards was dredged from the north entrance channel,” Baker added. “Then in 2009, a small amount – 6,500 cubic yards – was taken from the south entrance channel.”
State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Marina del Rey) agrees that more frequent dredging would help the Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department as well as recreational boaters.
“It really is a public safety issue,” said Lieu. “I fully support Rep. Waxman’s request for dredging Marina del Rey on a more frequent basis.”
Baker said Knabe has made more frequent sediment removal from the channels a top priority. “He’s really been pressing for this,” she said.
Waxman said that considering until last year there had not been a large-scale cleaning in more than a decade, it would be wise to begin planning for future projects. “I think we should be thinking about the next cycle,” he said.
Thirteen million dollars was set aside for the 2012 dredging effort, but due to significant cost savings the price tag was far less.
By transporting the sludge to Long Beach via the Paula Lee, the county was able to offset some of the normal costs associated with a project, according to Baker.
“(Dredging every three to five years) would likely cost between $3 to $5 million,” she estimated.
It typically costs between $150-200 per cubic yard to transport and dispose of a truckload of sediment dredged from the harbor, according to Beaches and Harbors. Baker said approximately 50,000 cubic yards of sediment accumulates in the channel annually.
In addition to saving money by moving the sludge by barge to Long Beach, approximately 140,000 cubic yards of clean sediment was moved to Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey as part of a beach renourishing project.
“That is another possible benefit to dredging,” Lieu noted. “Through the use of new and improving technology, there are things that can be done (with sediment that can be cleaned).”
At an April 5 press conference last year before the dredging project began, Capt. Reggie Gautt of the Marina del Rey Sherriff’s station echoed Waxman’s concerns about first responders having difficulties due to the build-up of sediment at the floor of the harbor.
“Our ability to respond to Homeland Security issues and public safety matters was significantly impacted as the result of sediment that was in both of the entrances of our channel,” said Gautt, who was then a lieutenant and the Marina Sheriff’s harbormaster. “At times the water level leading into our channel was two feet (deep), which affected our vessels.
“This project will now allow us to deal with this issue in a timely manner.”
Waxman says he views dredging as a maintenance function. “Without question,” he said. “This should be considered ongoing maintenance and we need to be on a regular schedule.”
Baker agrees. “Our department calls it maintenance dredging,” she said. “The priority for us would be to dredge the areas that are most impacted, and those tend to be the entrances of the channels.”
Knabe said dredging every three to five years will be a cost benefit for everyone.
“Once you catch up with it, it becomes a lot cheaper and it’s a lot better for our first responders and the boating public,” he said.