As ocean sand slips through the breakwater surrounding the Dana Point Harbor and accumulates over the years, boaters say the harbor is once again in need of a dredging.
The next dredging event and repairs to the breakwater are anticipated to start in winter 2024, Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley explained.
“The harbor needs to be dredged, because the sand is building up, and it’s actually causing a problem for boaters to be able to get through the channel there,” Foley said.
The county anticipates dredging roughly 45,000 cubic yards of sand from the Dana Point Harbor, which it will then distribute to beaches to replenish lost sand. Foley noted that the location of where the county will distribute the sand has yet to be determined, but she’d like to see sand replenishments become a routine matter whenever dredging occurs.
“Whenever possible, if the sand is clean enough to do this, when we’re taking the sand out of the ocean or out of our storm drains or flood channels, we want to replenish it onto the beaches,” Foley said. “I think we just have to start to have that regular routine just as a matter of course here in Orange County so that our sand, our beaches get restored.”
The county will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to direct the dredged-up sand to county beaches in need of replenishment, Foley explained.
“Most harbors have to be dredged so that the sand doesn’t build up too much,” Foley said. “In this case, the sand comes through the little cracks and crevices of the jetty and the rocks.”
“That’s why the sand continues to build up, but we don’t want to block that completely, because it really does some cleansing of the sand,” Foley continued. “But we can’t let it just continue to build up.”
Part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ work in the harbor will entail repairing sections of the breakwater, as well.
Foley noted that the need for dredging in the harbor was one of the first issues brought forward by boaters.
“One of the first things I heard when I first got here, I said, ‘What are projects at the harbor that we could work on?’ And one of the first things I heard was the jetty and dredging of the harbor,” Foley recalled. “So, I said, ‘OK, let’s get on it.’ ”
“I’m an action-oriented person,” Foley continued. “I don’t like to have to sit around talking about something for five years. You know it’s a problem, let’s just fix it.”
The Dana Point Boaters Association (DPBA) noted that previous Orange County Administrators had recommended dredging every six years, with the last two dredging events occurring in 2009 and 2015.
In 2022, the DPBA said it reached out to the Dana Point Harbor Partners and Orange County Real Estate Office to address concerns that the harbor needed to be dredged.
“The accumulation of sediment, combined with tidal fluctuations, has led to severe damage to the undersides of both sailboats and powerboats due to low water depth and abrasion from aged boat slips,” DPBA said in a statement.
“The sediment acts like abrasive sandpaper, causing damage down to the fiberglass and gel coat,” DPBA continued. “For many boaters, the cost of repairing this damage runs into the thousands of dollars.”
The boaters association noted that while they “appreciate that dredging is now scheduled to begin in winter 2024 and conclude in January 2026, we remain concerned about this additional one-year delay.”
The federally funded project is estimated to cost between $7 million and $10 million. Plans and specifications for the project are anticipated to be completed in spring 2024. Construction and dredging is anticipated to start in winter 2024, with the completion of construction anticipated in January 2026.