Monday, September 26, 2011

Less sand than expected for SANDAG Beach fill

The North County Times is reporting that the amount of sand to be placed in Oceanside as part of the April 2012 SANDAG Beach fill, will be reduced. The amount has been cut 20%, meaning 264,000 cubic feet of new sand will be placed, instead of the 300,000 cubic feet of sand that was approved. The reason is due to higher than expected costs for setup and tear down of the project.

Also, it was made known to us that the City of San Diego will not contribute to the project, and the beach fill for Torrey Pines will not happen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

San Diego Regional Beach Sand Project II - coming to a beach near you

The lack of blog entries may lead you to believe that the Surfrider San Diego Chapter's Beach Preservation Committee has been inactive, but it most definitely NOT TRUE! In the past few months we have been busy submitting written comments, attending and speaking at public meetings, and keeping up with local and regional projects that are in various stages of planning. Two of the big issues we are concerned with at the present are the Solana Beach LCP (more on that later), and SANDAG's Regional Beach Sand Project II, which will be discussed below.

San Diego County beaches have been eroding for many years. In general, this is not a bad thing for beaches, after all, erosion is a natural process. In the past, the erosion was offset by an input of sand from rivers (the Santa Margarita river north of Oceanside being the greatest contributor), and erosion of seacliffs. Unfortunately, both of these sources have been reduced as coastal development interests have superseded environmental and recreational interests. River deposits are blocked by marinas and large structures (such as the Oceanside Harbor jetty and Del Mar jetty) and seawalls have stopped the sand typically eroded from bluffs from reaching the beach. This video explains it well:

Restore the Shore from marty benson on Vimeo.

So what can be done to ensure the beach is preserved? In recent years, the practice of beach nourishment (terminology preferred by coastal engineers and managers) or beach dredge and fill (my preferred terminology) has been utilized as a "soft" alternative to hard structures like breakwaters and groins. Beach nourishment is at best a temporary measure, and in some poorly designed and executed cases, can be actually worse for the beach. Overall, the Surfrider Foundation has a policy which advocates planned or managed retreat and beach nourishment as a "last resort". This is similar to the Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter's policy. But the reality is that most coastal municipalities do not want to discuss retreat and beach nourishment has been, for the most part, the main coastal management tool that is currently used.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the lead agency that handles regional beach projects in San Diego county, and managed the mostly successful Regional Beach Sand Project I (RBSP I) in 2001. This project grew in response to the US Navy's attempt to use San Diego Bay dredge material as beach fill failed due to the presence of munitions. The successes and failures of RBSP I were extensively documented by SANDAG and Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Southern California Beach Process Study, and the project is viewed by most as a successful example of a large scale beach fill project.

In response to the continuing issue of beach erosion, SANDAG has been planning the Regional Beach Sand Project II, which aims to be similar in scope and detail to RSBP I. Most of the sand volumes and receiver sites are the same with RBSP II as they were in RBSP I. In general, the San Diego chapter approved of RBSP I and RBSP II. SANDAG made an admirable effort to get ahead of the issue, and reached out to many local environmental groups, including Surfrider, during the scoping of the project.

In February the draft Environment Imapact Report (DEIR) was released and opened for public comments. The San Diego chapter did prepare extensive comments, and we were the only local environmental group to do so. Our main issue with the DEIR was the reliance on a numerical model, GENESIS, that was used to evaluate the fate of the beach fill over a number of years. The model did not include the effects of cross-shelf transport, which is the major contributor to removal of sand from the beach, and did not include the effect of storms, which are responsible for forcing a majority of the cross-shelf transport. Additionally, there was mention that in beach areas nearby offshore reefs, there was a possibility for the reefs to be temporarily covered by sand after it was placed on the shore face. This was unacceptable to us, even on a temporary basis, as the effects to surfing reefs would be noticed by many surfers. To make it worse, the DEIR did not include any program to monitor the potential coverage of reefs or the effects of the additional sand to surf spots. We also expressed some concern that the amount of sand to be placed was not explicitly listed, as the DEIR listed 3 alternative scenarios for the amount of sand to be placed.

After our comments were received and replied to by SANDAG, the preferred alternative for the project was listed. The table below shows the original amounts:

SANDAG choose Alternative 2, which was similar to sand placed in RBSP I, but included a large increase around Solana Beach, which is home to a number of fine reef breaks (ask Jim Jaffee for exact locations :)). We still were unhappy with the explanation of how the sand volumes were calculated, and felt there was still a threat to sand covering the reefs. After a new round of comment letters to SANDAG, correspondence with the SANDAG board, and oral comments from San Diego Chapter's Campaign Coordinator, Julia Chunn, the volume of sand to be added in Solana Beach was decreased by over 200,000 cubic yards, bringing things back in line with RBSP I values. To us, this was a victory, as SANDAG was very concerned with our comments, and revised their sand placement based on our input.

While the sand reduction was very favorable, we were still concerned with the lack of explanation of the monitoring of the fate of the sand after placement and how it would effect surf spots. After SANDAG approved the DEIR, they needed to go in front of the California Coastal Commission and present their case to get the necessary permits for the project. We supplied written comments to the CCC in favor of the project, but expressed our reservation regarding the lack of surf spot monitoring. At the meeting, Surfrider National provided legal intern Kirk Tracy to provide oral comments. The commissioners were open to the idea of surf spot monitoring, and added it as a requirement to the permit for SANDAG to carry out the project. Another victory.

So, look forward to the launch of a Surf Spot monitoring program through out San Diego County coming soon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Surfrider Foundation to Honor California State Parks with Clean Water Award

Contact: Jim Jaffee,
May 2, 2011 – San Diego, Calif. – In recognition of their longstanding efforts to preserve and protect our beaches, Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter has named State Parks San Diego Coast District its “Organization of the Year”. The Clean Water Award will be presented at the 11th Annual Art Gala held at The Powerhouse in Del Mar on Thursday May 19th. Tickets for the Art Gala are available at
Surfrider is recognizing State Parks San Diego Coast District for their efforts in protecting and preserving the beaches within San Diego's State Parks including Leucadia State Beach, known to surfers and beach lovers as “Beacon’s”, and South Cardiff State Beach which includes the surf breaks of “Seaside” and ”Tabletops”. Over the years, the threats of erosion have put pressure on State Parks to alter the shoreline in these parks with seawalls. State Parks adopted a General Plan in 1983 recognizing that erosion is a natural condition. The plan also recognized that shoreline characteristics, recreational access and visual aspects unique to the shoreline must be maintained and restored. Over the last decade State Parks San Diego has worked towards these goals:
· In South Cardiff State Beach, State Parks has denied repeated requests to use State Park Land for seawalls to protect private residences in Solana Beach.
· State Parks and the State of California fought a lawsuit opposing such a denial and prevailed.
· At Beacons, State Parks opposed the City of Encinitas Plan to build a seawall in front of the trail to beach and instead redirected the City to use these funds on a more sustainable project.
· State Parks Lifeguards and Rangers protect the Parks and Beaches for surfers, fisherman and other beach users.

“Preventing seawalls on State Parks has maintained the bluffs in their natural state while neighboring cities have walled what is left of this precious resource. Many of these cities have allowed seawalls on Public Land zoned for Parks and Recreation. In sharp contrast, State Parks is maintaining and enhancing its beaches for all,” said Jim Jaffee, campaign manager for Surfrider’s Beach Preservation committee. “We hope the general public understands the value and efforts of this public agency.”
Accepting the award at the Art Gala will be honored guests, Brian Ketterer, Sector Superintendent, San Diego Coast District - North Sector California State Parks and Jim Bilz, State Park Lifeguard Supervisor.
Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter is committed to clean water and costal preservation from the beaches in Camp Pendleton in the north to the border across the Tijuana Sloughs in the south. To fund its programs, the organization depends on proceeds from the Annual Art Gala fundraiser. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at the Del Mar Powerhouse. To learn more about the Art Gala, please visit Tickets are on sale now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Solana Beach proposal could remove sea walls in coming decades -

Solana Beach proposal could remove sea walls in coming decades -

By Jonathan Horn UNION-TRIBUNE

Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 6 a.m.

SOLANA BEACH — In the decades to come, the sea walls that line the Solana Beach bluffs could all come down.

The city is working on a long-range plan that would remove the concrete barriers, which protect the homes that sit above the coast but also threaten the 1.4-miles of beach that give Solana Beach its biggest tourist draw.

Under the plan, all sea-wall permits would expire in 2081, a date agreed upon by blufftop homeowners and environmentalists. In the meantime, Solana Beach would have first dibs on blufftop homes with sea walls if they go up for sale. Should the city buy them, the sea walls could be removed as part of a process to restore the beach.

Property owners and environmentalists are on opposite sides of whether sea walls are even appropriate.

Sea walls are controversial because they teeter the line between private property rights and the public’s access to a sandy beach. The mostly concrete barriers are built into the coastal bluffs to block erosion, a gradual crumbling of the cliffs due to repeated pounding from high-tide waves.

By blocking erosion, sea walls keep the oceanview homes atop the cliffs safe from a shrinking base below. But that also means a narrower beach for the public since the walls cut off one source of sand — the breaking down of the bluffs.

Solana Beach is unique among North County cities because its entire coastline is made up of bluffs.

Sea wall homeowners must pay fees for sand replenishment and to make up for loss of beach. In fact, Solana Beach blufftop owners account for more than $1.25 million of the roughly $1.46 million of sea wall fees the San Diego Association of Governments holds.

SANDAG imported 2.1 million cubic yards of sand for 12 county beaches, including Solana Beach, in 2001. It plans to do a similar project early next year.

The 2081 sea-wall expiration date is part of the land-use portion of Solana Beach’s proposed Local Coastal Plan, which the city hopes a skeptical California Coastal Commission will approve by November. If that happens, the vast majority of projects would only need city approval, not the blessings of both the city and commission.

The idea of a 2081 removal of sea walls is specific to Solana Beach. City Manager David Ott said, however, that the plan could change drastically in the next two months given recent criticism from Coastal Commission staff members. An Oct. 27 letter to the city from the commission called 2081 sea wall removal “implausible as proposed and extremely unlikely to occur.” The city has submitted five drafts of its land-use plan proposals to the commission since 2001.

Commission staffers have suggested sea-wall permits be limited to 20 years, a current norm. Jon Corn, an attorney who represents the homeowners, wrote in a Jan. 25 letter to the city that the deal is at risk if a 20-year limit on sea walls is imposed.

Under current commission rules, a Solana Beach homeowner who wants a sea wall has to prove an imminent threat to their property exists. Under the compromise, they wouldn’t have to do that. Solana Beach would allow the walls through 2081. At the same time, environmentalists are all-but assured the sea walls will not be there forever.

Also under the proposed Local Coastal Plan, blufftop homeowners with sea walls installed after 2005 would have to pay a to-be-determined fee to compensate the city for their sea wall causing a narrower beach. That money, along with other sources, would go to paying for the properties if the city buys them. The latest proposal for the fee is $3,100 per linear foot of sea wall, so a 50-foot sea wall would incur a $155,000 fee, not including a $21,000 sand replenishment fee. Environmentalists say that amount is too low; homeowners say it’s too high.

“The most valuable property on the Pacific Ocean is going to a bunch of self-interested property owners,” said Jim Jaffee, a Solana Beach surfer and adviser to the Surfrider Foundation. “The city has essentially given the deed of the bluff away from the beach-using public.”

Corn said a sea wall can cost between $500,000 and $700,000, including fees. David Winkler had one installed to protect his Solana Beach home last year.

“Everybody’s responsible for a lack of sand on the beach, and yet the oceanfront homeowners are the ones that get stuck bearing the burden of this,” he said, adding that he believes most of the sand that feeds the beaches is blocked by other coastal developments, such as Highway 101 and the train tracks.

Coastal Commission approval of Solana Beach’s plan is far from a sure thing. Deborah Lee, the district manager, called streamlining sea-wall approvals through 2081 a “significant policy change.” She also said the commission is uncertain that Solana Beach has an adequate business plan to buy the properties.

The city’s proposed plan to finance buying the properties could involve government grants, redevelopment money, rental income from the blufftop properties after the city buys them, parking revenues, or a portion of the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax.

Comment from Jim Jaffee:

This is a very good primer on the proposal in Solana Beach to remove seawalls. The one fact that is underscored is that the city and/or the state own the beaches and bluffs where seawalls are built. They do not have to let seawalls on their property. The failure was letting them be built on the public property in the first place. It did not have to happen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beach Preservation Policy of Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter

Did you know that Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter has a Beach Preservation Policy? Well, we do and and it's intended to make sure that this (see picture) doesn't happen to your beach amongst other things. Read our policy statement below and download it in PDF format.

Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter Beach Preservation Policy

The Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter recognizes beaches as a public resource held in the public trust. Beaches provide affordable recreational access available to everyone. As human activities and development in coastal areas increase, preservation of these areas becomes more important. Increasingly, coastal development poses a threat to our naturally dynamic shoreline. Protecting development has become a priority over protecting the shoreline and beaches.

This policy establishes the Chapter's position on the preservation and restoration of San Diego County’s natural beaches, wavecut platforms, nearshore environment, and sandstone bluffs. The policy goal is preservation of San Diego's remaining natural coastline and restoration of the coast to its natural, unarmored state, including the landward migration of the shoreline due to the natural geology of the San Diego coast and sea level rise.

Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter supports:

  • A long term Planned Retreat policy that would allow interim protection of existing development coupled with gradual acquisition of property for expansion of Public Trust and Park Lands. This will allow for a natural retreat of the coastline ensuring continued beach formation.
  • Development of regulatory policies, which ensure adequate setbacks such that new development will not require shoreline protection within the useful economic life of the structure when subjected to natural erosion and accounting for sea level rise.
  • Charging Lease and Recreation Impact Fees for the interim use of Public Trust and Park Lands for Seawalls and other such devices used to protect existing development.

Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter May Support:

  • Beach replenishment projects that bring properly sized and constituted sand to San Diego County. These projects are strictly for strategic periodic maintenance, and should not be the cornerstone of the coastal management policy of San Diego County. Projects should provide maximum benefit for the beach going public, taking into account all natural and recreational resource impacts. Where necessary, such environmental impacts will be mitigated in their entirety.

Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter opposes:

  • The Permanent use of Public Trust or Park Land to build seawalls and other such structures. Seawalls and other structures built on a naturally eroding coastline subject to sea level rise will destroy recreational access and nearshore environment.
  • The construction of any form of permanent, hard structure as a means for retaining sandy beaches in San Diego County. Temporary shoreline protection projects may be supportable given a set of strict conditions.
  • The construction of permanent artificial reef projects for the purpose of retaining sand. Given predictions of accelerated sea level rise, the effectiveness of a reef's design will be short lived.

Policy Implementation:

  • Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will strive to work with public agencies to implement or modify Local Coastal Plans and General Plans for consistency with this policy.
  • Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will work on regional projects that restore natural sediment flow to the shoreline.
  • Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will oppose projects that use public lands for private purposes without just compensation to the public.
  • Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will oppose projects that adversely impact recreation, access to the coast and surfing and other water-oriented recreational activities.

Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter's policy is consistent with Sections 30210, 30211, 30212, 30220, 30221 of the Coastal Act and Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution in promoting free and open access to the coastline.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reefs, Seawalls, Sand and Solana Beach

I am very lucky to live in Solana Beach. Fletcher Cove shown below is the widest beach in Solana Beach. It is where the cliff has eroded the most leaving a wide beach where the cliff used to be.

On the north end of town is Tabletops Reef. It formed when the cliffs eroded. I love surfing this spot and do it several times a week.

As my son and I walked from the north end of Solana Beach, home to Tabletops, to Fletcher Cove, we see the result of poor planning and poor policy. We have a near continuous seawall built in my son's short 11 year lifetime. These seawalls will kill formation of beaches in his lifetime and the continued formation of reefs. Erosion makes beaches and reefs. Seawalls kill reefs and beaches. Pretty simple stuff.

Here we see construction underway of the latest seawall. Built with rebar and tiebacks that go 60 feet into publicly owned bluffs. It looks so natural as required by the permit.

We have only a few areas where there is no seawall north of Fletcher Cove. Here is one spot just north of the new wall.

If you want to learn more about how beaches really form:
If you want to make a difference, join Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter's Beach Preservation Campaign.