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Fearful of potential flooding to streets and neighboring areas, Port Hueneme officials on Monday undertook a massive project to prevent further beach erosion prompted by federal budget cuts that eliminated sand replacement programs for the popular tourist attraction.
The $500,000 project, being paid for by the city, involves putting in 100 feet of boulders at the worst points to prevent water from overflowing onto the city streets at Surfside Drive until the next dredging of sand comes about in February 2014. If needed, the city is prepared to bring in another 400 feet of boulders to shore up the street and an additional 500 feet beyond that if the problem isn’t alleviated, Community Development director Greg Brown said.
“We are preparing for a worst-case scenario,” Brown said. “It’s primarily a federal funding issue on paying to move the sand here to restore the beach.”
City officials said the full project will cost $10 million — costs that have been covered by the federal government since 1940, when the U.S. Navy assumed responsibility for the Port Hueneme deepwater port.
Mayor Ellis Green said the city has launched a lobbying campaign to get some response from the federal government, where they have found sympathy but no immediate response on providing emergency funding.
The Port Hueneme Pier has already been shut down for two days to replace a failing piling, officials said. Brown said their main concern now is halting the erosion to prevent it from undermining the residences and businesses along Surfside Drive, as well as the roadway itself.
Beach-related tourism is feeling feel the pinch of the erosion, Brown said. The problems of beach decay date back to the late 1930s, when the deepwater port was constructed. It was taken over by the U.S. Navy during World War II, and a 1954 federal act promised to provide biannual dredging at a sand trap to replace the lost beachfront.
“We have plenty of sand there, but not the money to pay to move it,” Brown said, adding that the city is hoping emergency funding will be made available to provide for an earlier movement of the sand to restore the beaches. “Without sand, we don’t have a beach.”
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park, who represents the area, said the erosion represents a major threat to the area and that she has been working to find the necessary funds. “It deserves and demands our immediate attention,” she noted. “I have been working diligently with the Army Corps, the Navy, FEMA, the White House and my colleagues in the House and the Senate to make sure no stone goes unturned to find the resources necessary to address this crisis.”