Local students focus of anti-tobacco event in Camarillo

A whistleblower who shed light on the tobacco industry’s illegal practice of marketing to children will be the guest speaker at the 18th Annual Teens Kick Ash Youth Tobacco-Free Advocacy Conference on Monday, Feb. 22 and Tuesday, Feb. 23.

La Tanisha C. Wright, an anti-smoking advocate, is a former marketing executive who worked for Brown & Williamson Tobacco. When she became aware that the company was violating marketing regulations against advertising to youths, she alerted the authorities and was fired, which resulted in a $1.5 million settlement.

Teens Kick Ash is a program developed by the Ventura County Office of Education’s Comprehensive Health and Prevention Programs Department designed to prevent children and teenagers from smoking. The annual conference hosts workshops on how to develop and produce anti-tobacco campaigns for schools and communities.

The conference will be held between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., with a middle-school-oriented session on Monday, Feb. 22, and a high-school-oriented session on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the VCOE Conference and Educational Services Center, 5100 Adolfo Road, Camarillo. For more information, visit www.vcoe.org.

Ventura Harbor receives $11.6 million for dredging

El Niño has struck a nerve in Ventura County. Though promised rains have yet to uplift us from the pit of severe drought, strong storms raging off the coast generated by “the boy” have caused record amounts of sand to block entrance in and out of the Ventura Harbor, forcing its closure.

Now, the dredging equipment has arrived and none too soon, as the harbor entrance has been closed since late January, and Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, has announced a total of $11.6 million to assist in the task this year and next.

The funds were provided as part of President Obama’s 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which includes $7.3 million — $2.5 million more than President Obama’s original request — to fund the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project to dredge the channel.

Originally slated to arrive around this time anyway, harbor officials asked the contractor in charge of the equipment to arrive earlier if possible due to the sudden onset of sand at the harbor’s entrance, and though the contractor left earlier than anticipated, equipment didn’t arrive until Saturday, Feb. 6, due to weather and sea conditions.

The 2016-2017 budget request includes $4.3 million for dredging as well.

Pat Hummer, senior patrol officer with the Harbor Patrol, says that strong swells and mechanical issues delayed the dredging. Hummer says that issues like the ones plaguing the Harbor entrance this year are very rare.

“We’ve seen on real big surf days the harbor entrance will close, but something like this hasn’t happened in the last 30 years,” said Hummer. “Some older guys can remember back in the 1970s when this happened, but it hasn’t happened since then; it’s just been a perfect storm.”

Harbor Master John Higgins says that he’s stopped using words like “hopeful” and “optimistic” when asked for an estimate of completion, but adds that weather this week has been very accommodating.

“They’re working diligently at the harbor entrance; we’re just anxiously awaiting them to push through,” said Higgins on Tuesday, Feb. 16. “Short of a mechanical breakdown, within the next 24 hours they should be through most of it and we’ll be seriously considering lifting the safety zone.”