Ventura Harbor closing impact is serious- help is on the way

By George Miller

For the first time in decades, Ventura Harbor has been closed, since Friday, to entry and exit traffic, which has created havoc for commercial businesses. This is no fault of any government or human. It is El Niño. Even in the best of times, an elaborate system of breakwaters, jetties and regular dredging is needed to keep Ventura Harbor, which is not a natural geographic feature, clear. But this year’s weather conditions have silted up the harbor entrance worse than any time in recent memory.


Treacherous Ventura Harbor entrance- 1-23-16. Photo: George Miller/

Harbormaster John Higgins informed today that the storm condtions this year have not only loaded up the harbor entrance with sand, but have created periodic hazardous sea/weather conditions making it even more dangerous for passage. So, the harbor is officially closed and only a small number of boats (about 15) have been escorted through, when conditions are considered safe enough.

When asked how boats could make the passage in and out of the harbor, he said skippers would have to contact him well in advance with much information, including reason for the trip, configuration and condition of vessel, including draft, mode of propulsion, experience of crew. He would evaluate the journey based on all that, plus current conditions- tide, wind, currents, visibility. He would then forward it to the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port (headquartered in Long Beach) for final permission. If authorized, the craft would then be escorted through the entrance.


Ventura Harbormaster John Higgins.

While newspaper reports have said that the depth is down to 14 feet, he said it is even less, “much less,” especially by the sandbars on both sides of the harbor entrance. Add swells, breaking waves, low tides, treacherous currents and high winds and you have a witch’s cauldron of hazards to deal with. He said the actual passable area is very narrow.

Accordingly, the harbor is closed until expedited dredging can take place. The dredging schedule has been accelerated and some landside equipment has already arrived. The dredge is still enroute and the harbor entrance will be the first zone worked on, to reopen the harbor as soon as possible, This could take up to a month, but Higgins said it might be done in as little as two weeks if everything goes just right.


2014 Ventura Harbor dredging project. Photo: George Miller/

Meanwhile, boats have fled the harbor and relocated up and down the coast so that they can continue their business. Channel Islands and Santa Barbara Harbors have not been so severely affected, so they remain open to all traffic. We have seen fishing boats relocated to Channel islands Harbor, as has part of the National Park Service fleet. Island Packers, which has the concession for transportation to the Channel Islands and also does whale watches, has relocated its high-speed catamarans to Channel Islands Harbor, They already base their Anacapa Island and whale-watching boat,The Vanguard, there. The address is 3550 Harbor Boulevard, Oxnard.

Recreational boating is also impacted of course, but the economic impact is not as serious as it would be for commercial and recreational fishing boats, tour operators, oil platform tenders, etc.


“Tall Ships” Lady Washington and Hawaain Chieftain came to Channel Islands Harbor (at Harbor HQ on Victoria Ave.) sooner than expected due to Channel Islands Harbor closure. 1-23-16. Photo: George Miller/



An Island Packers catamaran and National Park Service boat have been relocated to Channel Islands Harbor, near the Hampton Inn on Peninsula Road- 1-24-16. Photo: George Miller/


Surf on beach just south of Ventura Harbor south jetty.


John Higgins

[email protected]
(805) 642-8618

VHF Channel 16/12


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

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