Ventura Port District Board of Commissioners approves emergency action for Hunga Tonga tsunami damages

Ventura Harbor experienced unpredictable currents and damaging surges following a massive undersea volcanic eruption near Tonga on Saturday, January 14, 2022. As a result, the Ventura Port District Board of Commissioners took immediate action at their Board Meeting held January 19, 2022, by approving a State of Emergency resolution to restore District assets in the Ventura Harbor.

Thankfully, no injuries were reported in the Ventura area following the Hunga Tonga Tsunami Advisory. However, the powerful surges led to damage of both public and private property in the Ventura Harbor and the adjoining Ventura Keys. There are at least two dozen damaged docks at multiple marinas and private residences and two Ventura Harbor Patrol Boats have been rendered out of commission.

“Our Commission’s swift action in adopting an emergency resolution paves the way for the repair and replacement of Port District assets,” said Brian Pendleton, Ventura Port District General Manager. “It will also help the Port to expedite and restore redundancy for our on-water patrol and emergency response capabilities,” Pendleton added.

The Harbor remains open, including the public launch ramp. Recreational activities on the water were temporarily discouraged during the surges, however all activities have since resumed. It is still advisable to proceed with caution as some navigation buoys are absent and residual debris may still be in the water.

Following the tsunami activity, Senior Harbor Patrol Officer, Pat Hummer, conducted a depth soundings to evaluate the conditions of the entrance channel and inner harbor. The sounding showed that sand removed during the surges has increased the water depth, which is one silver lining for the boat traffic in Ventura Harbor overall.

“The efforts by our Harbormaster and Ventura Harbor Patrol officers are commendable, as they offer around the clock support to help safeguard the public and property whenever possible,” said Pendleton. Channel Watch Marine/Tow Boat US/Vessel Assist Ventura also aided in towing and removal of debris. Both teams partnered for a quick response to those in our coastal community during the surges.

The Harbormaster is pursuing solutions to address the reduction in the Harbor Patrol on-water capacity. “Currently the Harbor Patrol’s Fire Boat 1, along with additional vessels, are available to support many of the services in Ventura Harbor,” said

John Higgins, Ventura Port District Harbormaster. “As we work to quickly evaluate solutions for boat replacements or repair, we’ll be relying on the strong relationships that the Ventura Harbor Patrol has developed with fellow community agencies to assist in the Harbor and beyond.”

Pendleton states, “We will continue to work closely with local, regional and state agencies to connect businesses and property owners with permitting agencies to complete necessary repairs to Harbor marinas and private docks.”

“Time and time again I have seen the Ventura Harbor community come together whether there’s been an accident, weather-related incident, pandemic, or in this case, response to a natural disaster half-way around the world,” Pendleton said.

Below, the Ventura Port District shares resources and contacts for assistance to those affected by the tsunami surges in the Ventura Keys and Ventura Harbor. As more information becomes available, updated resources and information will be available on VenturaHarbor.com.

City of Ventura-Contact: Dara C. Sanders, Planning Manager, Community Development Department, City of Ventura: dsanders@cityofventura.ca.gov

California Coastal Commission-Contact: SouthCentralCoast@coastal.ca.gov and visit https://www.coastal.ca.gov/cdp/cdp-forms.html to identify the appropriate applications

For repair work that involves pile replacement or other disturbance of the seafloor

US Army Corps of Engineers-Contact: Antal Szijj, Team Lead, Regulatory Division, Ventura Field Office: Antal.J.Szijj@usace.army.mil

Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board-Contact: Emily Duncan, Ph.D., Senior Environmental Scientist, Regional Programs Section: Emily.Duncan@waterboards.ca.gov

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