[media-credit name=”Jack Crosbie” align=”alignleft” width=”201″][/media-credit]

A diver surfaces at the Santa Barbara Harbor and hands waste to a volunteer on the dock. Above right is a collection of some of the debris found on the bottom of the harbor. Nine volunteeer divers from seven different groups participated in the project, called Operation Clean Sweep.

Local volunteers rallied together to help remove hazardous debris from the Santa Barbara Harbor during Saturday’s fifth annual Operation Clean Sweep.

Nine volunteer divers swept the sea floor underneath Marina 1’s ‘A’ through ‘D’ docks Saturday morning and collected various debris such as toilets, bicycles and fire extinguishers. Several local ocean conservation groups including Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, Surfrider Foundation, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, harbor dive businesses, local fisherman and dock workers joined to sponsor the event.

Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman said the collaborative effort — supplemented by safety boats and heavy-lifting vessels — has removed thousands of tons of trash from the harbor within the last five years.

“It’s easier to understand if you think of it as pulling the plug of a bathtub and cleaning out all the litter on the floor of the tub,” Kronman said. “Over the years, we’ve fished up more than 15,000 tons of debris.”

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper Marine Programs Director Michael Sheehy said the trash is a potential hazard to the ocean and boats in the harbor.

“The cleaning operation is important to improve water quality in the harbor and to the ocean environment in Santa Barbara in general,” Sheehy said. “The debris on the seabed also is a serious hazard. Metal rusting can cause serious property damages to the boats docked in the harbor and also be dangerous to anyone in the water.”

Kronman said debris removal improves the well-being of stationed boats.

“All the scrap metals in salt water can cause battery effect called electrolysis, damaging to metal rudders and propellers of boats docked in the harbor,” Kronman said.

In addition to volunteer divers, roughly 40 community members helped organize the cleanup and dispose of collected debris. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Superintendant Chris Mobley said the participants provide important assistance for the project.

“Volunteer divers will provide the bulk of manpower for the cleaning operation down there,” Mobley said. “But there will be dumpster pickups and food and beverages provided by the Harbor Department, who will be organizing the event.”

According to Kronman, the operation is part of a 10-year community-wide project to clean the entire harbor.

“We believe we have a professional and personal duty to both the constituents and people who work here to make the sea floor as pristine as the sea surface,” Kronman said.


Reporter Sam Chung contributed to this article.