The Santa Cruz Port District dredges the harbor channel between November 1 and May 1 of each year. During this time, the Port District may elect to direct the sediments from its dredging operation in the beach zone area.

The District was granted an emergency authorization to continue dredge operations in the entrance through Friday, May 5, 2023.

For any questions regarding the District’s dredge operation, please contact the harbor office at (831) 475-6161.

2022-23 Dredge Operations


The District was granted an emergency authorization to continue dredge operations in the entrance through Friday, May 5, 2023. To view the most recent sounding, please click here.

During dredging operations, pass Twin Lakes on the east side (Crow’s Nest side) of the channel unless otherwise marked. Stay at least 50’ from the dredge and contact the dredge crew on VHF channel 8 for passing instructions. If your vessel contacts any dredge equipment or pipeline, please contact Harbor Patrol IMMEDIATELY on VHF channel 9.


Crews have restored access to the offshore disposal pipeline, which was buried during the winter storms, and resumed dredging the X/J channel on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. North harbor dredging of fine-grained material is permitted through February 28, 2023, and coarse-grained material is permitted through April 30, 2023.

To view the areas proposed for dredging and the anticipated pipeline configuration in the north harbor please click here.

The Science Behind Dredging

Dredging of the harbor is required because of the constant easterly movement of sand along our coast and thus, across our harbor entrance. Such movement is generated by the ongoing forces of waves and currents. The amount of material moved and deposited is directly proportional to the severity of current and wave conditions. This constant movement of masses of sand is termed littoral drift.

Sand indicated by orange dotted areas, is carried down the San Lorenzo River and thence moved down-coast by wave and tidal action called littoral drift. Constantly moving, the sand mass builds up against the west jetty and flows around it, shoaling the Santa Cruz Harbor entrance channel. Impeding sand is then dredged from the entrance channel and deposited in the inter-tidal zone where the existing littoral drift carries it down-coast, nourishing those beaches east of the Santa Cruz Harbor entrance.

Because of sand incursion at the mouth of the harbor, it is essential that an annual dredging effort be maintained to assure sufficient depth at the harbor entrance to permit the safe passage of vessels transiting the entrance. Shoaling conditions caused by littoral sand drift produce dangerous and unpredictable breaking wave formations at the harbor’s entrance. These breaking waves are extremely hazardous to incoming, and outgoing vessels and pose a particular danger to individuals walking on either of the jetties.