Almost 250,000 cubic meters of sand and debris will travel by pipe from Santa Barbara Harbor to the surf zone across from the Cabrillo Boulevard baseball fields next week as part of an annual dredging cycle.

Marking the commencement of the 2007 fall cycle, federal channel dredging for the Santa Barbara Harbor will officially begin Nov. 12. According to a Waterfront Dept. press release, the process will involve the installation of 8,000 linear feet of discharge pipe leading to the dumping site. The dredging will take place at all hours of the day for about a month, breaking only so maintenance crews can leave for Thanksgiving weekend.

Waterfront Dept. Director John Bridley said the annual process involves removing sand from the bottom of the ocean to ease water passage into the harbor. About 250,000 cubic meters of sand are repositioned from the Federal Channel to preserve and sustain appropriate navigational conditions for accessibility into and out of Santa Barbara Harbor.

“Dredging is the removal of sand from the bottom of the navigational channel,” he said. “It’s the area where you exit and enter the harbor.”

Despite the vast amount of material being transported, Bridley said little environmental impact will occur.

“The dredging operation in Santa Barbara has been going on for sixty years annually and it has little or no effect on anything other than to move sand from the harbor down coast to the east beach area,” Bridley said.

The primary function and purpose of dredging is to appropriately maintain navigational channels in the interest of safe and efficient navigation, according to the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. CHL conducts a variety of research on dredging activities to support the Corps’ mission, which is to provide safe, reliable, efficient, effective and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems for movement of commerce and for national security needs.

The surf zone next to the Cabrillo Boulevard baseball fields was selected as the deposit location for the sand in order to minimize the impact of the dredging both on the environment as well as local beach users.

Although dredging is set to begin this month, the method of financing the operation remains uncertain. Bridley said that while the commission has a set day to begin, budget crunches might interrupt the process intermittently.

“The Corps of Engineers will be getting a little less funding than last year so it might slightly interrupt the flow of the dredging operations,” Bridley said.

The department’s release also confirmed this point, but noted that the proposed federal budget for 2008 allocated $1.94 million specifically for the funding of Santa Barbara Harbor dredging. The department stated that it did not foresee any significant funding issues in its ongoing operations.