Due to recent swell and storms, the harbor entrance conditions are dynamic and may pose a risk to boaters. Please evaluate the current conditions, the Harbor Soundings*, your skills and abilities, and the limitations of your vessel before transiting the harbor entrance.

*Please be aware that harbor soundings are not necessarily up to date with current conditions.


In The News

SANTA CRUZ >> The continuing impact of last week’s series of storms is as apparent as the healthy beachfront grown up around Walton Lighthouse at the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor.

Though the heavily shoaled harbor mouth is not officially closed to boating traffic, vessels navigating the entrance are warned of dangerous navigating conditions and have been unable to enter or exit the shallow waters at low tide for several days, at least. Early Tuesday morning, prior to the day’s dredging, a harbor sounding reported a 1-foot depth at the mouth.

UC Santa Cruz Rowing Program Supervisor Jodi Boswell said her vessels are among the first to be impacted by the shallow entrance, each rowboat equipped with 10-foot oars on each side and requiring calm water to exit the harbor. When the harbor mouth is shoaled as it is now, swells roll straight back, making even in-harbor lessons dangerous, she said. This most recent shoaling, from Boswell’s perspective, looks worse than last year’s.

“I’ve been there 15 years and I’ve never seen it this bad, last year or this year. The volume of sand washed into the harbor mouth, to where we can walk almost straight across at low tide, I’ve never seen it like that. Yesterday, the dredger was surrounded by sand,” Boswell said. “I hope it does get cleared. It’s very frustrating. A lot of us rely on it getting cleared for our paychecks.”

Fighting sand erosion and silt buildup at the harbor is an annual exercise, aided this year by the $5 million purchase of a new dredge, the Twin Lakes.

Port Director Lisa Ekers said early dredging work held up fairly well against this month’s first round of storms, but has been tested by the second round, combined with sediment washed down the San Lorenzo River and other coastal streams. However, Ekers said she did not expect this year’s shoaled harbor mouth to pack the same punch as last year’s conditions, when the harbor mouth was all but closed for more than four months. For two weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard implemented a two-week hard closure in March.

“We could get it pretty well cleared up in a few days, if the conditions and everything works smoothly,” Ekers said. “But we also don’t know what else the weather is going to bring and we do know that there’s some high surf forecast for the end of this week that’s not going to help. We can’t move the equipment out into the high surf and that’s where the problem usually is.”

Semi-retired commercial crab and salmon fisherman Frank Ribeiro has not be able to take his “Gayle R” out of the harbor for weeks, between stormy weather and the shoaled harbor mouth, he said. Even at high tide, the harbor entrance channel is narrow and it continues to be shallow outside the harbor, Ribeiro said.


“If you’re going to go out and make a couple hundred bucks, you stand a chance of putting the boat on the rocks,” Ribeiro said. “For me, it’s not worth it.”

The harbor provided an initial estimate of $12 million in silt cleanup and storm damage repair costs to Santa Cruz County officials two weeks ago, based on a quick look at the earlier storm’s impact. After a second round of storms and a closer look at the harbor seawall and pilings, Ekers said she believes the cost will be less than $12 million, but was unable to give a more specific estimate while damage inspections are underway. In the north harbor alone, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 cubic feet of sand has built up, Ekers said.

“The big part of the challenge right now is there’s so much woody debris in the water, that the crews have to work kind of slowly, because they have to keep removing obstructions,” Ekers said.

Read the original article at Santa Cruz Sentinel – By Jessica A. York, Santa Cruz Sentinel; POSTED: |


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