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Local News

Whale’s Whereabouts Postpones Santa Barbara Harbor Dredging

The $500,000 spring dredging project has been delayed by the presence of a lingering 25-foot gray whale

A California gray whale in the neighborhood has led to the delay of scheduled dredging in Santa Barbara Harbor.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of the Los Angeles District, on the recommendation of the city of Santa Barbara and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, has postponed the harbor maintenance dredging because of the presence of the 25-foot whale. The operation was to have started Friday.

“We recognize the significance of this whale in the harbor,” said Col. Thomas Magness, the corps’ district commander. “Our dredging operation can wait!”

The wait is not without consequences, however, and could have a significant impact on the $500,000 project, which was estimated to be completed by mid-April. According to the city and the corps, there may still be enough time to complete the project, depending on the length of the whale’s stay.

“We are pleased that federal agencies are working to resolve this situation, and we will follow their direction regarding when the spring dredging cycle may commence,” said John Bridley, the city’s waterfront director. “Hopefully, the dredging can still be completed on time and on budget.”

Meanwhile, local and federal agencies — Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol, NOAA and the California Department of Fish & Game — will continue monitoring the whale’s whereabouts from land and sea. They will also be educating the public about allowable whale-watching practices.

Officials say boaters may continue entering and exiting the harbor as usual, while exercising extra caution to avoid the whale, which on occasion has swum into the inner harbor. Marine experts aren’t sure why the whale has lingered in the area since early this month, but it appears undernourished and weak.

The planned dredging operation is the second this fiscal year under a multiyear contract administered by the corps. Because of its configuration and currents, the harbor shoals area is remedied twice a year by maintenance dredging.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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