Since late September, the federal Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging sand and dumping it on Mission Beach, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But the Corps hasn’t just been dredging sand as it’s been deepening the Mission Bay boat channel, part of a $5.3-million stimulus project.

Nearby residents have found debris on the beach, too: Pieces of rubber tires, sharp wire and mangled rebar, all sticking out of the sand.

“It’s just heart-wrenching to see what they’re doing,” said Wendy Gibson, whose house is on the Mission Beach boardwalk and overlooks the sand. She shot this photograph:

Federal regulations require the sand to be tested before it’s dredged. But it must only be checked for chemicals and to ensure the grain size is the same as what’s on the beach. That creates a problem that’s been repeated at both Mission Beach and five years ago in Imperial Beach, where residents found chunks of rock and metal rods in the sand. In both projects, regulations have been followed, but unusual debris has still surfaced.

The Army Corps ensured the federal requirements were met in Mission Beach, said Scott John, the agency’s project manager overseeing the effort.

“The sand has all been tested and has been deemed clean,” he said.

It’s the responsibility of the private contractor, Seattle-based Manson Construction, to ensure debris doesn’t get deposited on the beach. The company’s contract calls for it to remove any debris pumped onto the beach.

“We’re doing the best we can with what we have available,” said Frank Bechtolt, Manson’s project manager for the dredging project. “There’s a man that does nothing but sits at the discharge and picks up what comes out. They might miss something, but we definitely dispose of everything we see.”

The Army Corps has the authority to stop the dredging project if Manson Construction isn’t preventing debris from being deposited on the beach, John said, but has no plans to do so.

Gregory Fuderer, an Army Corps spokesman, said in an e-mail that “instances have occurred where that responsibility” to remove debris and other unsuitable material have not been met in Mission Beach.

He said the agency was “taking all practical measures” to keep the beach free of debris, and that Manson Construction has now assigned someone to monitor the sand flowing from the pipe.

“We do ask that people understand we are dredging about one-half million cubic yards of material from the bottom of a heavily-used navigation channel, and that it will contain objects other than beach sand. Our goal is to ensure none of that material remains on the beach,” Fuderer said.

Alex Roth, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, said the issue had been discussed during his office’s weekly conference Tuesday with Army Corps and Manson Construction officials.

“We are aware of the trash problem and at the most recent meeting, we made it clear we expect them to clean it up,” Roth said. “They are going to take all reasonable efforts to clean up the trash that they’re leaving behind. We’re confident they’ll do that.”

Tony Manolatos, a spokesman for Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who represents Mission Beach, said his office had been in touch with the Army Corps about the problem.

“They’ve told us they’re going to correct the problem. Now it’s on them, but we’re going make sure that they do that,” he said.

We went out to see the dredging underway this afternoon, and also found debris on the beach.

Here’s a picture we took this afternoon.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

And here’s what the pipe spewing the sand looks like.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter:

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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