Saving California's Coast: Army Engineers at Oceanside and Humboldt Bay

Saving California's Coast: Army Engineers at Oceanside and Humboldt Bay

by Susan Pritchard O'Hara, Gregory Graves


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Army engineers have been struggling with California's coastal engineering problems since 1853. With more than a thousand miles of shoreline, California presents a large number of engineering challenges. Eighty six percent of the state's coastline recedes at an average one-half to two feet per year, making it a constant battle just to remain even with nature's fury.

Oceanside Harbor and Humbolt Bay, at opposite ends of the state, are prime examples of this struggle, and of the continued creativity and demanding work required of the intrepid engineers.

Humboldt Bay is one of the only deep-water ports along the Pacific Coast between San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound. As early as the 1880s attempts were made to control the formation of the sandbar at its entrance and to ensure a deep channel into the bay. This is the story of nearly superhuman efforts-efforts that have altered the topography of the bay, influenced the economy of California's northern coast, and resulted in technological innovations in jetty building.

Oceanside Harbor demonstrates the difficulty in balancing environmental and aesthetic considerations with the human need and desire to develop and use coastal land. Since the construction of a naval base in 1942, officials and engineers at Oceanside have been forced to balance diverse private and public sector interests while finding solutions to the beach erosion problems. The story of Oceanside Harbor underscores the extreme difficulties coastal engineers face when they attempt to build and maintain structures which modify the titanic forces of nature. This is an account of their ingenious efforts and revolutionary solutions.

Twenty two photographs and twenty maps and diagrams enhance the volume. Both accounts have been thoroughly researched and documented, making the book a true engineering adventure story. This work will be a welcome possession to anybody interested in the history of the land and water, and the challenges they both present.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780870622014
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date: 08/28/1991
Series: Western Lands and Waters Series
Pages: 277
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Susan Pritchard O'Hara received a master's degree in public history in 1986 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A native of Humboldt County, she has long been interested in its history and development and has written several papers on the settlement of the southern portion of the country.

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