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Local News

Equipment Breakdown Delays Dredging of Santa Barbara Harbor

Boaters are cautioned to leave only if they have to, while holdup has affected whale-watching and other cruise businesses

Traffic in and out of the Santa Barbara Harbor will remain minimal this week following a delay in dredging because of broken equipment.

Dredging of the sand-packed harbor began late Saturday, and the city’s equipment ran for about four hours before an electrical breakdown, according to harbor operations assistant Doug McConnaughay.

New parts were en route Monday, but dredging won’t begin again until Thursday at the earliest, which means most boats shouldn’t venture outside the smaller-than-normal channel unless they need to, McConnaughay said.

He emphasized that the city would not close the harbor entrance and merely encouraged as few passages as possible until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could resume dredging.

Harbor Patrol crews have been busy around the clock since the winter storm more than a week ago, helping guide boats of all sizes, especially those that bump the bottom, McConnaughay said.

“We’re definitely cautioning boats to not go out,” he said. “We’re really encouraging boaters to contact Harbor Patrol, and we’re helping them in every way that we can. We’ve done a lot of escorts, a lot of guiding. We realize that people have reasons to go in and out.”

The holdup has affected whale-watching and other cruise businesses.

The Condor Express hasn’t gone out since Feb. 27, and it hopes to resume trips Saturday, depending on dredging.

The Double Dolphin, which ran aground and was freed from the harbor entrance during a cruise last Friday, has its next trip tentatively scheduled for Friday.

The delay also has forced the city’s Waterfront Department to cancel the cruise ship visit that was set for Wednesday. The Sapphire Princess would’ve brought most of its 3,700 passengers ashore to dine and shop locally.

“I have serious concerns for the safety of the ship’s passengers and transporting tenders,” Waterfront Director Scott Riedman said in a statement.

Riedman cited shoaling and low tide as the main cause for caution because Seal Landing is the only place where the 149-passenger tenders, which come every seven to 10 minutes from the cruise ship, can disembark.

He expected dredging wouldn’t interfere with the next cruise ship, slated to dock March 20.

McConnaughay said boaters should expect a more restricted harbor area once dredging begins, since the equipment will span across and block the channel.

He hoped for passage as usual by Sunday.

“The more time that boats are going in and out, that’s the longer that it takes for the dredge to complete,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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