Business & Economy

Ventura harbor closure takes an economic toll, thanks to strong currents and El Niño conditions

File: A National Parks Service boat transports staffers to and from the Channel Islands and Ventura Harbor.
File: A National Parks Service boat transports staffers to and from the Channel Islands and Ventura Harbor.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Businesses in Ventura Harbor are getting assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration this week after a season of strong currents and El Niño-like conditions took an economic toll on boating activities.

The Small Business Administration declared a state of emergency for the Ventura Harbor businesses on Feb. 26, according to a press release. The declaration enabled the administration to directly assist affected businesses in Ventura County and the surrounding areas.

Beginning in late January, a build-up of sand in the harbor created shallow waters that closed the harbor until Feb. 19, according to Brian Pendleton, business operations manager with the Ventura Port District. He said the types of businesses impacted include commercial fishing operations, passenger vessels, marinas and boat yards, among others. 

"A lot of that sand that's removed normally on an annual basis moved into the harbor entrance, creating very shallow waters and unsafe conditions for all of the boating activities," Pendleton told KPCC. 

Pendleton said that more than 20 businesses filed preliminary economic impact reports provided by the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services, describing how they've seen the harbor closure affect business.

Assistance from the Small Business Administration has arrived in the form of the SBA Business Recovery Center at the Ventura Port District's Administrative Offices, where reps will be available to assist with low-interest federal loan applications and to provide technical business support. 

The loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll and accounts payable, along with other bills that businesses can't pay due to the disaster, according to the release.

Each year the amount of sand in the harbor does rise, according to Pendleton, but it has been a long while since it has created this big of an impact. He said that the problem with shallow waters is solved through dredging — removing sand from in and around the harbor.

"Dredging is ongoing. They first started with the entrance to get that reopened, and they are busy out there now," Pendleton said. 

He said that dredging is expected to be completed sometime in March.

Pendleton noted that in order to get assistance at the recovery center, filing economic impact reports previously isn't required.

The SBA Business Recovery center was originally scheduled to be open through Thursday, but it was later announced that it will stay open longer, remaining open through Tuesday, March 8. The center's hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until March 8 at 1603 Anchors Way in Ventura. (It closes from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. daily.)

This story has been updated.