In an unusual twist, 22 farm workers displaced from local fields by this winter's El Nino-driven storms are now being employed as a result of the weird weather pattern.
The workers are cleaning up 1 1/2 miles of Ventura's San Buenaventura State Beach.
"They are being gainfully employed," said Mike Wimmel, the beach's maintenance supervisor. "They are well worth their weight in gold. They are hard-working people."
The crew is expected to pick up 200 to 300 tons of wood and other trash deposited on the beach before Memorial Day weekend.
That is in addition to 1,060 tons of larger storm debris that was scooped from beaches by heavy equipment in the first phase of the $250,000 cleanup.
The farm workers are meticulously roaming the beach, picking up anything "foreign"--which means everything except rocks--that could harm beach-goers this summer, Wimmel said.
"We want no foot injuries," he said. "The machinery that went out there wasn't able to manicure to that level."
The wood is being processed to make mulch.
Oxnard, which is also cleaning its beaches, will burn its debris. The first of as many as eight burns is tentatively scheduled for May 28.
The cleanup efforts are part of a series that state and local governments have held in recent months to deal with the tons of storm-tossed debris that accumulated on local beaches.
Cleanups have ranged from one punningly called "Wood Stack '98," in which people could have as much firewood as they could cart off, to such volunteer efforts as Ventura's "Partners in Progress" program that encourages residents to take part in such work for the community's benefit.