The Channel Islands Harbor Water Circulation Saga

By George Miller

When the Oxnard City Council and various NGO’s scrambled to shut down Oxnard’s power plants, seemingly at any cost and blocked a state of the art clean gas plant replacement, something got lost in the shuffle. Unbeknownst to 99+% of local people, the old plant’s cooling system sucked millions of gallons of harbor water through a canal on the harbor’s north end for cooling purposes. This created improved circulation in the harbor, since more water from the harbor mouth would be sucked in to replace it. While the pumps were only running intermittently, the effect was still a huge recharging of harbor water.

That all stopped in February when the plant was retired. Keith Moore and I warned about this in advance, but the council, which promotes the sparkling waters of Channel Islands Harbor for tourism, which Mayor Flynn has called “The jewel of Oxnard,” did nothing about it that we’re aware of.

Gradually it sunk in with the public that the pumps had stopped. Those who didn’t know but recognized the change in water appearance/quality found out about it via the grapevine: word of mouth,, articles, civic/neighborhood organizations. The Channel Island Neighborhood Council meeting at PCYC Yacht Club last week was mobbed. Officials tried to placate angry residents by telling them that water bacteria wasn’t that bad.

To be fair, most coastal harbors in the state don’t have a recirculation “backdoor” like Channel Islands Harbor did. But it was an advantage. Improvements in the storm drain system seem to have improved the appearance of the harbor waters over the years. It’s true that there are algae blooms in the hot summer months, but:

  • It’s been cooler in the harbor area than  usual
  • The algae blooms and “red tides” look different from what we are seeing now
Former plant operator’s parent corp. NRG provided these comments:
  • GenOn retired the Mandalay plant on February 5, 2018. The site remains in an environmentally and physically safe status, in compliance with its permits and regulations.
  • By permit, the circulating pumps that pulled water out of the canal can only run to support power generation and maintenance activities and we have ceased those permitted operations.
  • A number of Mandalay documents can be found at this link:

    Page 2 of the “Implementation Plan” available at that link has the information on peak capacity of the pumps.

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about the Mandalay plant cooling pumps. Does it look like they have sufficient capacity to affect water circulation significantly? ….

Oxnard’s 6-26-18 press release on CIH water testing. It says that the water isn’t fatally toxic, but doesn’t really get into water appearance, stagnant conditions …

Test Results: Water in Channel Islands Harbor Not Hazardous to Human Health
Oxnard, California – The bacteriological tests are in. The water in the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard is not hazardous to human health, according to results received by the Oxnard Public Works Department.
The bacteriological tests looked for total coliform, E. coli and enterococcus. The city has not yet received test results for the presence of nitrogen and phosphorus–nutrients that encourage algae growth.
On June 18, within 24 hours of receiving a call about odor and discoloration in Harbor waters, the city collected water samples at five locations in the Harbor and Edison Canal area.
Samples were taken at the Channel Islands Harbor inlet, along South Harbor Boulevard; near West Channel Islands Boulevard bridge; along West Hemlock Street; the Edison Canal near the Edison Trash Collector; and near West Fifth Street bridge.
The city also took samples at various locations during low tide and high tide.
Residents are encouraged to report any odors or discoloration in Harbor waters by calling 805-797-7598.


But, the bottom line is that we don’t yet know for sure what is affecting the water and how bad it is. The test results at least capped the downside.

Downside of abandoning Oxnard Mandalay power plant – harbor cleanliness

Oxnard Establishes Channel Islands Harbor Response Team, Hotline to Report Water Quality in Harbor

Oxnard Establishes Channel Islands Harbor Response Team, Hotline to Report Water Quality in Harbor

Oxnard, California – The City of Oxnard has established a Channel Harbor Response team and a hotline for residents to report odors or discoloration of water in the Channel Islands Harbor area. “There are a lot of unknowns at this time, but the city is taking the matter seriously and taking immediate action to determine the […]

Any chance Oxnard had to et help from NRG on the problem evaporated when they unceremoniously arranged for NRG”s chances to win approval on the replacement plant. That could have solved  a lot of problems, like getting the old plants torn down/remediated, community benefit agreements, and This ….

Harbor Resident Advises VC Star on Dirty Harbor Water, Local Economy

Harbor Resident Advises VC Star on Dirty Harbor Water, Local Economy

By Charles McLaughlin I wrote to the VC Star on their Saturday articles on: “Harbor water turns brown over the past week” / “Flynn commits to economic efforts” I can address both of the above articles with one solution. Beg NRG to come back into negotiations. Now the art of the deal: Request that they take […]


George Miller is Publisher and Co-Founder of and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard. 

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William Hicks
William Hicks
2 years ago

I would guess that the alternative natural gas operated unit is not in the spirit of Sacramento environmental edicts.