House approves federal money to dredge Morro Bay Harbor

A bill that would provide more than $3 million to dredge Morro Bay Harbor has passed the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) announced Friday.

Morro Bay Harbor is the only commercial and recreational harbor located between Santa Barbara and Monterey.

The bill also includes language making Pismo Beach eligible for federal funding to study the erosion impact of waves on the city’s bluffs along Highway 1.

The House approved the bill, which includes $3,136,000 for Morro Bay Harbor, by a vote of 308 to 114. Capps said she expects the Senate to approve it, at which point it would go to President Obama for his signature.

The annual dredging of Morro Bay Harbor will maintain a channel depth of between 30 and 40 feet, allowing for safe passage of harbor traffic, Capps wrote in a press release.

This money is in addition to the $5,240,000 that was included for the project in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Continued dredging of Morro Bay Harbor is essential for the survival of our fishing and tourism industries, especially in this difficult economic environment” Capps wrote.

“This federal funding will help support our top-notch harbor facilities, allow safe passage for the harbor’s commercial, recreational and Coast Guard traffic, and keep our waterway clean and healthy for generations to come,” she wrote

The harbor is home to U.S. Coast Guard Station Morro Bay, which provides primary waterside security for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Coast Guard station also serves critical law enforcement and search and rescue missions for more than 300 miles of California’s coastline.

Failure to adequately maintain the channels would likely cause the closure of U.S.C.G. Station Morro Bay, endanger the fragile Central Coast commercial fishing industry, and impair other businesses in the Harbor, Capps wrote.

The conference report, at Capps’ request, also included language making the City of Pismo Beach eligible to receive federal funding to study the link between wave impacts and bluff erosion along Highway 1.

Erosion caused by waves has jeopardized existing street rights-of-way, city infrastructure, and public improvements.

To date, the federal government has contributed over $500,000 to review existing shoreline erosion problems that Pismo Beach is experiencing, Capps wrote.

-Bob Cuddy