Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Norfolk, VA deals with sea level rise

“The fact is that there is not enough engineering to go around to mitigate the rising sea” - Jim Schultz from "Front-Line City in Virginia Tackles Rise in Sea", NYT 11/25/2010
Sea level rise and coastal management were the focus of a NY Times article, Front-Line City in Virginia Tackles Rise in Sea, which appeared this past Thursday. This article might be getting a lot of attention because of the United Nations Climate Change Conference happening in Cancun this week, but it's always good to see some attention to a major topic that effects coastal communities. The article points out that sea level rise is a real problem in Norfolk, VA and floods are a common occurrence after rains and during a high tide. If you've never been to Norfolk, it is surrounded by water, and like many coastal towns along the US east coast, it is built on filled in wetlands. While the article acknowledges that the fill is compacting and the town is sinking, it highlights a situation which may become more common if sea level rise estimates come true in the coming years.

While the skeptics will focus the argument on whether or not global warming is causing sea-level rise, the problem remains that the home of world's largest navy installation, Naval Station Norfolk, has done little to prepare for sea level rise. The city of Norfolk has opted to throw money at the problem, recently hiring Fugro, a Dutch conglomerate, to "to evaluate options like inflatable dams and storm-surge floodgates at the entrances to waterways". You may know Fugro as an oil & gas consultant to US drilling and production, but they also provide environmental services.

However, Norfolk is not alone, as "Waterworld, the coming seawall craze" by Steve Nash from the New Repubic Online points out:
"Along the Atlantic, 60 percent of the coastline that sits less than three feet above sea level has been opened for new houses, hotels, businesses, and roads. (By contrast, only 10 percent has been set aside for conservation.)"
Land use agencies along the east coast have either dragged their feet or ignored establishing policies to deal with the consequences of sea-level rise. And unless coastal retreat is considered, hard shoreline armoring may become a more common sight along the east coast.

Along Southern California coasts, erosion continues to be a problem, and most of the municipalities in San Diego County do not have policies in place to deal with sea level rise predictions.

Whether or not you believe in sea-level rise, the state of California does, and on November 14, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-13-08 to create statewide consistency in planning for sea level rise. The executive order calls for, among other things, the completion of a Sea Level Rise Assessment Report, the consideration of sea level rise scenarios for the years 2050 and 2100, and the development of a Climate Adaptation Strategy. Consistent with the executive order, the governing board of the Coastal Conservancy adopted interim sea level rise rates (Adopted June 4, 2009): (a) 16 inches (40 cm) by 2050; and (b) 55 inches (140 cm) by 2100 for use in reviewing the vulnerability of projects it funds. (lifted from "A report of sea level rise preparedness" from the California State lands commission).

The California State Lands Commission will provide a one-year status update on implementation of the recommendations of the Report on Sea Level Rise Preparedness at their upcoming meeting to be held at 10:00 AM on December 10, 2010 at the Port of San Diego. Click here for the Agenda.

These recommendations are required to be included in any federal or state coastal project, which includes coastal erosion mitigation projects from Dept of Boating and Waterways and Army Corps of Engineers.

Personally, I think the big issue is forcing coastal municipalities to take sea level rise seriously and begin the discussion about which parts of our coast can be managed by strategic retreat.

Monday, October 25, 2010

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Trashes Mission Beach with Dredging Project. Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter calls for cleanup and more testing

Here's a recent press release that we sent out regarding the current dredging project in the Mission Bay channel. It actually seems to be a decent source of sand but the sharp objects being left behind are unacceptable...

Often it’s the tourists that trash Mission Beach, now an Army Corps of Engineers project is adding to it. Mission Beach residents and beach-goers have been shocked by debris left behind by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Manson Construction (headquartered in Seattle, WA). Right now a top concern is beach safety as many sharp objects are turning up.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) through their contractor are in the middle of a dredging project in Mission Bay to make it safer for boat traffic. The name of the approximate $5.3 million project is “Mission Bay Dredging and Beach Nourishment”. As the name of the project implies, material that is dredged up from Mission Bay is being pumped up the beach through large pipes to various sections of Mission Beach.

Unfortunately, the material being dredged up has included an abundance of debris with apparently no attempt to clean it up. “Beaches should be barefoot friendly but right now we are advising everyone to watch their step on Mission Beach near the dredge and fill project. When I walked the tideline on Tuesday I found armfuls of debris, everything from outdated soda and beer cans to old fishing gear to degraded lobster traps wrapped with wire to leftover caution tape from the project. At first glance it did not look bad but once I got on the beach I was pretty shocked.”, said Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter Coordinator Bill Hickman.

Click Here for Photos.

The trash (which includes beer cans, sharp metal objects, discarded fishing material and more) is being pumped out right at the water line, allowed to drain, and is then graded into the existing sand. There is no apparent effort by the ACOE or Manson Construction to screen their dredge material to make sure that they are only depositing “clean, beach quality sand”, as their own construction sign indicates.

Multiple residents and beach-goers have been appalled to see old trash and debris being deposited on their local beaches and are concerned about its long term health, environmental, and financial impacts to the surrounding community and businesses.

“Surfrider is calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop trashing our beaches and to clean up the mess that they’ve already made. In addition they need to increase testing of the water and sand near the outfall to make sure it’s up to health standards.”, said Hickman.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Assignment Earth News Story on San Diego Seawalls

Solana Beach and North County are the focus of this excellent piece.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beach Loss Behind Seawalls - Losing the Public Beach

This video illustrates the lost beach area when a seawall stops cliff retreat. Acres of beach have and will be lost in California. In Solana Beach, somewhere between 5 and 35 acres of publicly owned beach will be lost to seawalls. All of these seawalls are built on public beach.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

State Park General Plan Prohibited Seawall in 1983, City Complains in 2010

Encinitas tried to get a seawall approved and funded by taxpayers at Beacon's Beach. They spent $500,000 to study it. They produced a Draft EIR that said the impacts of the seawall would block access to the beach and impact recreation.

Even worse, they neglected to obey the General Plan of Leucadia State Beach home of Beacons in proposing the seawall alternative in the first place.
It is hard to understand which part of the General Plan Policy "Seawalls shall not be constructed on the State Beach." they did not understand? Maybe that was confused with the Policy that said "The state owned cliff-faces at Leucadia State Beach shall not be fortified with retaining walls."
In 2003, Surfrider Foundation asked the City to pursue alternatives to the seawall to improve access to Beacons. In 2006, we submitted public comment arguing the impacts and issues with the seawall consistent with the General Plan and results of the DEIR.
It is funny to watch the politicians point fingers when they waste the taxpayers money and worse missed a 9 year window to design the right project for Beacons. We told them in 2003 and again 2006 as well and they ignored us.
I am adding a summary I made in my comments to the DEIR in 2006 to show what we tried to do:
"In summary, it would be ill advised under such circumstances to recommend alternatives that require a statement of overriding considerations such as the seawall alternative. The environmentally superior alternative with stairs, some sand replenishment and relocation should be further refined and studied. I am available to help study such an alternative. Surfrider Foundation has offered as far back as the meeting held 6/04/03 (Schmidt Design Group Meeting Notes available on City website) to help with a softer solution than proposed. At that meeting the City stated that soft solutions could garner the state funding required to improve Beacon’s Beach yet no effort has been made to pursue such an alternative in earnest.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Jim Jaffee"

Monday, June 28, 2010

No Seawall at Beacon's

In 2001, California State Parks awarded a grant to the city of Encinitas to protect the bluff and parking area. The city went forward with plans to build a seawall, but were cautioned by the state to design an alternative to a sea wall. The city maintains that the only alternative is a sea wall, but the Parks withdrew funding for the project citing the state policy against seawalls. I've been having a hard time tracking down where this policy is written (maybe someone can help me?). Anyway, it seems to me that the State Park's policy on seawalls would have been established before 2001, and therefore silly that they would approve this grant in the first place. But, overall it's one less seawall (for now).

I've surfed Beacon's once in the last 5 years. The trail to the beach was pretty poor shape, but I didn't feel that it was more unsafe then the trail down to Black's or other cliff accessed beaches in San Diego.
Article from the UT:
Beach is left in the lurch as state vetoes sea wall - SignOnSanDiego.com

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Waiter, There's a Metal Rod in My Sand

Jim has been doing a great job with the blog. Just wanted to pass along an article from the VoiceOfSanDiego.org about the desperation of Imperial Beach to get money for sand projects.
Waiter, There's a Metal Rod in My Sand

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Artifical Reef in Solana Beach - Surfing May or May Not be Addressed

Surfers tend to get excited when they hear the buzzwords "artificial reef". They get visions of the local hotspot turning into Pipeline or J-Bay. So far the jury is still out if artificial reefs will make great waves as well as impacts they may have on the shoreline.

However, surfers and beachgoers should exercise extreme caution when dealing with these project. The City of Solana Beach is proposing an artificial reef at Fletcher Cove in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers. I would caution my friends in the surf community on this project and luckily Councilman Mike Nichols has taken a cautious approach to embracing this proposal.

Here is one reason I am worried and I would think Councilman Nichols is as well:

"Secondary objectives that may or may not be addressed in the study included the need to develop a design that is efficient, enhances surfing, and enhances offshore habitat."

The above quote comes from the report on the project.

The real aim of the project is in the report:

"A stabilization structure, such as a multi-purpose reef could be used to retain sediment, attenuate beach loss, provide storm damage reduction, and maximize benefits of ongoing and future beach nourishment projects. This type of structure could also mitigate for recreational impacts while avoiding potential impacts to adjacent natural habitats."

There you have it...you might save some sand from going down to Del Mar and then past there to fall into the canyon off Black's never to be seen again, but what happens to your surf break at Fletcher Cove or the Beach Breaks in Del Mar?

Also, one proposed version of the sandbag reef will have the bags exposed at low tide and visible from the beach.

Information on this project can be found at:


Send your comments on the Artificial Reef Proposed Design to:

Ms. Leslea Meyerhoff, AICP. Project Manager, City of Solana Beach, 635 South Highway 101, Solana Beach, CA, 92075. Comments can also be sent by facsimile to 858-720-2448 or by email to: LMeyerhoff@cosb.org

If you want guidance on how to deal with this type of project here is a suggested list of criteria:

•If it is determined that a given intervention can have a net retarding effect on sand loss, it should be implemented only if there is no significant adverse impact to the following:
–Surfing conditions
–Sand supply to other beaches in the littoral cell
–Public beach access
–Lagoons and estuaries
–Off-shore marine life
–Water quality
–Coastline aesthetics

See this paper for more information: Dynamics of Beach Sand

Monday, June 7, 2010

Seawalls and Oil Spills

It is interesting to examine the parallels that exist between the environmental nightmare of the Deepwater Horizon and the Seawalls Built in Solana Beach. The best thing about this oil spill, is it got people motivated to stop drilling and hopefully gets them thinking of how to not use oil.
My guess is most people will do nothing about the seawall issue until there are no beaches to go to. You will have concrete and water. Nowhere to walk, not even if you are shore bird.
Just like an oil spill seawalls are an accident waiting to happen. If you want to stop the seawall accident, get involved before the bulldozers are rolling on the beach.
I hope this helps get someone into the fight.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How A Seawall Hurts the Beach

Many folks ask what a seawall really does to harm the beach? Environmental Impact Reports and the Coastal Commission have all determined that a seawall placed on an eroding shoreline will cause a narrowing of the beach until it is lost. Had the shoreline been allowed to erode, beach area would have formed. The graphic below shows how a rising sea will eventually touch the wall.

Behind the wall is public beach area that is lost. By building a wall, public beach area is lost. Solana Beach is assessing a charge for this lost beach and valuable recreation area. In Solana Beach, there is presently 8 acres of beach available for public use. With the placement of walls this 8 acres will decrease. Behind the walls, somewhere between 5 and 30 acres of beach will be lost between now and 2081.

The City has released a Draft Land Lease & Recreation Fee Report.

Public comments on this report are due by July 14 and will aid the public in determining how much 5-30 acres of public beach being used by property owners until 2081 is worth to them. Please send in your comments.

Comments on the report must be written and should be directed to the attention of:

Ms. Tina Christiansen, Community Development Director

City of Solana Beach

635 South Highway 101

Solana Beach, CA, 92075.

Comments can also be sent by facsimile to 858-720-2448

or by email to: TChristiansen@cosb.org.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Restore the Shore Short Video

Restore the Shore from marty benson

Watch this video to get a good idea of our position and story.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oceanside Harbor dredging falls short

I'm adding Jim's comment at the beginning because he's absolutely correct:

"The misconception that the shoreline must be maintined at the same location as in 1960 let alone as last year is the fundamental problem. Not a lack of sand. The rate of sand removal is greater than the rate of deposition even in a natural condition. With the harbor jetties and sea level rise, the rate of removal is even greater. The shoreline must move landward to compensate."

Oceanside Harbor dredging falls short in replenishing city beaches
North County Times-4/20/10

Oceanside's beaches are in such sorry shape this year that sand dredged from the city's harbor didn't go nearly as far is it usually does in making up for the ravages of winter storms.

In a typical year, sand dredged from the harbor every April by the Army Corps of Engineers is pumped onto city beaches as far south as Tyson Street Park, which is about three blocks south of Oceanside Municipal Pier, said Frank Quan, city harbor and beaches coordinator.

This week, as workers packed up their equipment, it became clear that the dredged sand only stretched as far as the pier.

"It's the first year I can ever recall that we didn't have dredged sand south of the pier," said John Daley, a lifelong Oceanside resident and founding member of the Oceanside Historical Society.

"It's just never happened, and I'm old enough to remember the beaches back to the '60s," said Daley, who has collected photographs going back to the 1880s showing the ebb and flow of beach sand.

...more at the NC Times

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Coast News Group - Fee structure plan for sea walls available

This is a great article on the fee study in Solana Beach for seawalls and how it will lead to seawall removal.

Coast News Group - Fee structure plan for sea walls available

SOLANA BEACH — A plan to help Solana Beach meet its goal of eliminating sea walls by 2081 is now available on the city website. Residents are encouraged to view and comment on the proposal, which requires bluff-top property owners who build shoreline protection devices to pay a fee.Sea walls, which are allowed in Solana Beach only under specific circumstances, prevent natural bluff erosion that creates beaches. The purpose of the fee is to compensate the public for that recreational loss of the beach. It is part of the city’s long-term shoreline protection management plan to preserve and enhance a safe beach for the public while protecting the rights of bluff-top property owners.

Read more at link above/below...

Coast News Group - Fee structure plan for sea walls available

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Survey Says: Children Do Not Count on the Beach

City's Consulants do not value a child's day at the beach.

The City of Solana Beach Draft Land Lease & Recreation Fee Report for 60 day comment period on April 14, 2010. The report is to be used to determine the lease for using public beaches and bluffs for the private purpose of building seawalls to protect private property.

The Staff Report from the Fee Study explains this rather well.

Simplistically, the fees are calculated by determining the beach attendance and how much one spends in travel time and use of the beach.

One major problem, the study did not use a child's day at the beach in figuring out the values. A child's day at the beach has no value.

It costs $325 to send each of my 2 kids to the beach for the awesome 20 day Solana Beach Junior Lifeguard Program, I wonder if a day at the beach is worth at least $325/20=16.25?

If I add the trip to Roberto's or Rubios to that it seems like we spend a lot more for kids going to the beach than 0?

Not to mention, they go to the beach a lot more than just for Junior Lifeguards.

The Consultants need some convincing. Send in your comments to them.

I will be bloggin more on this later.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

LA Times: Southern California beach erosion is worst in a decade


...In January and February, powerful swells, high tides and strong winds swept away tons of sand from the coastline, stealing as much as 30 to 40 feet of beachfront at some locations.

In the month or two since the El NiƱo-driven storms, coastal communities -- Laguna Beach, Malibu and Manhattan Beach among them -- have worked to patch the damage by making repairs and trucking in fresh sand, but some worry whether nature will return the sand as it has in the past.

The sand loss is a familiar phenomenon.

Shifting sand is part of a natural cycle that happens each year. Each spring, potent storm surges pull sand from the beaches out to sea. Over the summer, gentler waves gradually push it back ashore.

Periodically, beach cities throughout Southern California try to make up for the so-called sand deficit by pumping the material in from offshore.

Global warming and sea rise are contributing to the deterioration of beaches in the long term, scientists say, but those forces are not to blame for this spring's dramatic changes.

It's the exceptional level of damage this year that has been cause for alarm.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fleecing of America - Beach Fill

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"This is a form of societal madness; to build buildings right up to the edge of an eroding shoreline doesn't make sense."

"By placing sand out there it [nourishment] provides a false sense of security."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seawall Removal Case History

Scott vs Del Mar is an important case in our seawall position. This case ruled that a seawall built on public property could be removed and declared as a nuisance.

Here is some of the key information in the ruling:

"As discussed above, the evidence established (1) the Public Sidewalk on Map 1450 was dedicated to public use in 1912, and (2) the private seawalls, rip rap and patios on the Scott and Lynch properties completely obstructed public access to the Public Sidewalk area. Accordingly, the improvements were nuisances per se, and Del Mar had the power to declare them such and remove them, after complying with due process requirements."

"Likewise, Scott's and Lynch's claims that Del Mar's removal of the protective structures caused their properties to decrease in value fails to establish a constitutionally compensable "taking or damaging." To the contrary, as discussed above, Del Mar's abatement of the encroachments on public land was a reasonable exercise of its police power, which does not give rise to an inverse condemnation action."

While the seawall was ultimately removed from public property it was later built on private property.

Imperial Beach - Property owners claim threat to property but forget to mention their seawalls and development caused loss of beach

The article below is typical. A property owner builds too close to an eroding shoreline and then blames waves and tides for threatening their home. In the meantime, because they built this house an eroding coastline the beach has completely disappeared in front of their wall and home. The beach needs to shift landward but it cannot. Now the beach is gone. That is the real tragedy here. Nobody except Surfrider will fight to save that beach.

IMPERIAL BEACH — All that remains of a small, sandy beachfront yard once filled with lounge chairs and a fire pit are precariously stacked, protective boulders that residents of a four-unit Imperial Beach condominium complex say have sunk up to 10 feet.
A particularly damaging mix of high tides and high surf and a growing number of winter storms have stripped the sand from much of Imperial Beach, resulting in an emergency situation for Bill and Marty Arbuckle and their neighbors on Ocean Lane. They have asked the city to permit them to temporarily protect their condos with special 6-by-6-foot sandbags.
“This is the first time since we’ve lived here that we’ve had this kind of a problem,” Bill Arbuckle said last week from his home of 12 years as wisps of water from crashing waves reached his second-story sliding-glass door.
Imperial Beach officials, who approved the condominium owners’ request for temporary shoreline protection, say the problem isn’t limited to those at the condominiums.
“Shoreline erosion is a constant in our city but we’ve had consistent high storm and high tide events since December,” said Community Development Director Greg Wade. “Encinitas, Carlsbad and other coastal cities are having similar issues. The surf is so consistently high, there is no time for sand to settle back on the beach, which provides protection.”

Read the entire article:


Monday, March 1, 2010

Strand Closed in Oceanside 2-28-10

High tide and high surf coincided once again in Oceanside, but this time the Strand had to be closed to cars. Never before had I seen waves breaking into the parking lot just South of the pier, but there is a first for everything.

As I was snapping pictures, a lifeguard drove up, got out of his truck, and stood next to me. I thought I was busted because he knew I had been writing this blog and they didn't want bad press or something. Nope, he wanted to take some photos himself. I commented, "so its pretty unusual to have the waves breaking on the road this far north on the Strand, huh?" He replied ,"I've never seen anything like it."

This morning I went back to see how things were and the road is once again so covered in cobbles and sand that its hard to tell where the beach ends and the street begins. The swingset is once again unearthed and a few palm trees are dangerously close to toppling over.

I am glad to know that the lifeguards realize that the dynamic coast is shifting. I'm sure they realize that structures previously thought to be out of the danger zone are now getting closer and closer to the high tide line. What I hope comes from all of this is a meaningful discussion about planned retreat, to remove development west of the bluff. We will see.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Unplanned Beach Retreat - The Coastal Act and seawalls

The CCC annd authorized Local Coastal Plans should not permit seawall construction on an eroding coastline when it would threaten recreational access to the beach protected by Coastal Act Sections on Public Access 30210-30214 and Recreation, Sections 30220-30222 .

  • Seawalls should not be approved on eroding coastlines unless it is clear that there is a viable mitigation plan.
  • Seawalls fix the the back boundary of the beach. So long as the shoreline is experiencing a net retreat, a net sea level rise, or natural seacliff retreat, the width of the beach will decrease with the construction of a protective structure.
  • Without mitigation that can be performed we have a de facto Unplanned Beach Retreat Policy - our beaches will shrink between wall and water.
  • The Coastal Act provides several guiding and potentially conflicting principles on how to deal with this complex issue making regulation difficult. We want to address this conflict.
  • 30007.5 states that when "...conflicts be resolved in a manner which on balance is the most protective of significant coastal resources."
  • 30235 requires approval of seawalls "..to protect existing structures or public beaches in danger from erosion and when designed to eliminate or mitigate adverse impacts on local shoreline sand supply.
  • Section 30604(c) requires that every coastal development permit (including for seawalls) issued for any development between the nearest public road and the sea include a specific finding that the development is in conformity with the public access and public recreation policies of [Coastal Act] Chapter 3.
  • Coastal Act Sections 30210 through 30213, as well as Sections 30220 and 30221 specifically protect public access and recreation.
  • Section 30210: references Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution
  • Section 30211: requires that "Development shall not interfere with the public's right of access to the sea..."
  • Section 30212(a): Public access from the nearest public roadway to the shoreline and along the coast shall be provided in new development projects�
  • Section 30213: Lower cost visitor and recreational facilities shall be protected, encouraged, and, where feasible, provided. Developments providing public recreational opportunities are preferred.
  • Section 30220: Coastal areas suited for water-oriented recreational activities that cannot readily be provided at inland water areas shall be protected for such uses.
  • Section 30221: Oceanfront land suitable for recreational use shall be protected for recreational use and development unless present and foreseeable future demand for public or commercial recreational activities that could be accommodated on the property is already adequately provided for in the area.
  • The cumulative effects of seawalls on shoreline access along with the present approval policy and rate of seawall construction and approval makes the governing policies of maintaining access along the coast impossible to enforce
  • We must use the Coastal Act policies to balance in favor of the environment per Section 30007.5, and per Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution that "...give the most liberal construction to this provision, so that access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof."

Monday, February 1, 2010

The importance of coastal bluffs in supplying San Diego area beaches with sand

Figure 10. Estimated percentage of beach-sediment contributions to the Oceanside Littoral Cell for the study area between April 1998 and April 2004 (a statistically dry period). (from Adam P. Young, Scott A. Ashford (2006) Application of Airborne LIDAR for Seacliff Volumetric Change and Beach-Sediment Budget Contributions. Journal of Coastal Research: Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 307-318.)

I've been thinking a bunch about this topic over the past few weeks as a long string of larger than normal surf have coincided with some very high tides. Easily every beach I've seen in the past two weeks has shown signs of erosion. Also see Andrea's posts below which do a great job of documenting the problems in Oceanside. The addition of the heavy rains have complicated things even more, and where they are not restrained by seawalls, beach cliff erosion is very active. If you've been down the paved trail to Black's Beach, you can see this pretty clearly.

In 2005, UCSD grad student Adam Young and his advisor Scott Ashford published "Application of Airborne LIDAR for Seacliff Volumetric Change and Beach-Sediment Budget Contributions" in Journal of Coastal Research. The important result from this work is summed up in the figure above. Classical thinking had been that rivers provided up to 90% of beach sand in the Oceanside littoral cell. Young and Ashford's work found that seacliff (or bluff) erosion contributed 67% to beach sediment in the Oceanside cell.

The reception of this work was varied. Many who fight against seawalls, saw this as a concrete (pun intended) example of the detrimental effects of seawalls, which are blocking sediment into our littoral cells. Obviously, the seawall advocates were not so pleased and many were quick to dismiss the work.
"We think it's pure hogwash," countered Paul Santina, president of the Beach and Bluff Conservancy. (from Study: Bluffs contribute most of the sand on local beaches, By: Paul Sisson North County Times, Oct 16, 2005)
Most of the scientific criticism about Young and Ashford's study was based on the short period of time that their analysis included. They looked at a six year period of time, which also was during a dry period. Six years in the geological sense is short, but their methods are accepted as valid by many in the coastal research community.

To help put this academic research into a real life example, head down to Black's Beach or any of the beaches in front of non-armored bluffs. You're likely to see patches of large amount of sediment eroding off the bluffs (bluff failures), which will soon make it's way into our littoral cell.

Here are some additional links regarding Adam Young's work:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beaches in Oceanside in Trouble

Just to give you an idea of how windy it was at the beach during Tuesday's storm. Storms expected Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday should have more wind and rain.

A combination of wave action and sand erosion is creating havoc on the beach. Fire pits along the beach are breaking apart and washing away. Crews that come to clean up the beach after storms have not moved these items. They must be waiting for the fire pits to just wash away.

Playground at the pier has become a hazard for children as sand is washed away from concrete. Again, crews that were at the beach cleaning up after the storm did nothing about the hazard- no warning signs posted, no shoveling of sand back in the area, and the playground is not closed. Click on images to enlarge.

Perhaps when the road gets covered with so much sand after every storm, the problem is not sand on the road, but the road built on the beach. With the added surge from the wind and swell, waves even at lower tides wash up and over the road, leaving sand and seaweed in the road. This morning, crews were out scraping the sand off the road and putting back on the beach. The trouble is that the heavy machinery damage the road and curbs. All along the strand, the worst erosion of sand is in areas where the curb is missing. It doesn't seem that the clean up effort is helping the life span of the road, or the homes. The problem is that the road and the homes are ON THE BEACH. Moving around the sand does not change that fact.

The other reason that developing west of the bluff is a bad idea- bluff erosion. A natural process that creates beaches and happens every time it rains. Most of the homes are protected by retaining walls to prevent mudslides like this (that concrete curb surrounds a concrete platform now covered by mud). A few more inches of rain in the next 3 days ought to soak the bluffs even more.

Wether it was a good idea 50 years ago to build in this area, it is no longer a good idea. The road was taken out and homes destroyed in 1980 because of a storm. Nothing has been done to remedy the problems pointed out to the city in studies done after that failure except some beach fills. It is sad that the city was not able to learn from the last catastrophe and address the issues of the dynamic coastline and development on the beach and has allowed more development along the Strand without repairing the road or rip-rap, or even having a plan to do so. It seems like the city is acting foolishly by just ignoring the problem and hoping it won't happen again. Well, look out, because we are in the midst of the biggest storm in decades.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oceanside Failure of the Strand 1980

For those of you who would like to do a little more reading about the last time the Strand failed in Oceanside in 1980 after a storm event that never produced waves over 6 feet, look here. For those of you that might like to watch the next failure, head down to the Strand on Weds, Jan 20, 2010. NOAA is predicting the largest wind, rain, and tidal surge event in decades. I will post photos from my morning walks.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Was there erosion first or development first?

Institutional memory is a wonderful tool. If we forget our history we are doomed to repeat its mistakes and will not learn from them. The picture above shows the condominiums at the southern end of Solana Beach around the time of its construction in 1974. Note the bluff is already eroding and the bluffs were eroding during construction. You can learn more about this by reading:

Kuhn, Gerald G., and Francis P. Shepard, "Sea Cliffs, Beaches, and Coastal Valleys of San Diego County: Some Amazing Histories and Some Horrifying Implications". Berkeley: University of California Press, c1984. The picture above and many others are from that text. It is available online at http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft0h4nb01z/. The picture is on page 73.

One of the key elements of our campaign is to show the public and the policymakers that the baseline condition of our coast is a naturally eroding condition impacted by complex factors including the geology of the coast, sea level rise, wave energy and the presence of sand. In the above example, the bluff material is extremely susceptible to erosion since it is composed of sediment that was carried to the coast via an ancient river. Between 1971 and 1978 the area experienced 10 feet of erosion according to Kuhn and Shepard. No El Nino or lack of sand caused this erosion. It was simply the lack of due diligence by the developer in building in this location.

Unfortunately, a seawall now exists at the subject site. It was built immediately after the development was completed at this location. The seawall collapsed soon after it was built (above) and was rebuilt at the same site(below). It still exists today.

How much wider would the beach have been had this wall never been built given that the bluff eroded 10 feet in 7 years? In this case, we will never know, but we do know that lack of sand and El Nino storms did not cause this seawall to be needed thanks to the work of Kuhn and Shepard.

Friday, January 15, 2010

January 2010 at the Coastal Commission

Today at the Coastal Commission Hearing two big things happened:

  1. A mitigation fee was imposed for a seawall at the Li residence in Encinitas to mitigate the loss of recreational beach. The fee will be charged for the area of land occupied by the seawall and the future loss of beach caused by the seawall fixing the back of the beach. You can read the staff report for this project at this link. Since 2001 I have been working tirelessly to make the loss of recreational beach part of the mitigation fees. The fact that are charging mitigation fees for the occupation of beach space and limiting the permit to 20years is related to work I started at that time. Please see this presentation and paper for a 2001 presentation I gave at RESTORING THE BEACH - Science, Policy and FundingCalifornia Shore and Beach Preservation Association (CSBPA)and California Coastal Coalition (CalCoast) Joint Conference with local sponsorSan Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)
    San Diego, CA November 8-10, 2001.
    I have given additional papers in similar conferences since that time and also commented on numerous permits to have this mitigation included. The first such mitigation in San Diego was for the Las Brisas project. You can read that Staff Report here.
  2. A resolution to support world designation of surfing reserves. You can read the staff report and resolution here. Why is this important - Surf breaks have not been studied for environmental impacts in most sand replenishment or seawall projects and definitely not in Army Corps projects. This is a huge move in the right direction.

Here is the letter I sent CCC staff (Gary Cannon) with respect to the Li project above:

Dear Gary,

As a followup to our phone conversation, I would like to go on record as an
advisor to the San Diego County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and as VP of
CalBeach Advocates, that we object to the issuance of a permit for a new seawall
or for an after the fact approval of the existing seawall for the following
agenda item to be heard on Friday:

Application No. 6-07-133 (Li, Encinitas) Application of Bernard Li to remove 6
ft. of concrete footing from seaward side of unpermitted seawall, construct 10
ft. high addition to unpermitted seawall, install 35 ft. high tied-back concrete
columns between existing ones and add 1.5 ft. thick colored and textured facing
over seawall, on public beach below 680 Neptune Avenue, Encinitas, San Diego
County. (GDC-SD)

At p13 of the staff report it states:

"When the residential duplex at the top of the bluff was constructed in
approximately 1975, the property owner submitted documentation certifying that
the residence would not be threatened by erosion if sited 25 feet inland of the
bluff edge. "

Coastal Act requires that "New Development" per 30253..."(b) Assure stability
and structural integrity, and neither create nor contribute significantly to
erosion, geologic instability, or destruction of the site or surrounding area or
in any way require the construction of protective devices that would
substantially alter natural landforms along bluffs and cliffs... "

We strongly believe the applicant was required to provide the 1975 documentation
certifying no threat from erosion in order to comply with 30253. Is there
institutional memory for this? Or because they put in an un-permitted wall,
will they get a free pass on complying with 30253?

At the October 2009 Coastal Commission Hearing, in the following matter,

Permit No. A-3-CAP-99-023-A1 (Swan and Green Valley Corporation, Capitola).
Request by Richard and Nancy Swan and the Green Valley Corporation to amend
permit to eliminate the existing condition prohibiting future shoreline armoring
(that applies to the Green Valley Corporation property) and to construct
approximately 115-ft. section of contoured concrete seawall fronting that Green
Valley Corporation property and adjacent to existing seawall on adjacent
property (on Swan property) on beach and bluffs fronting 4840 and 4850 Cliff
Drive in Capitola, Santa Cruz County. (SC-SC)

In the above matter, the Commission took a strong position that development
completed under a Coastal Development Permit that should not require shoreline
protection must not subsequently get that shoreline protection. We strongly
believe the principal structure in the Li residence is not entitled to
protection and urge denial of the permit and an enforcement action to remove the
unpermitted seawall and relocate threatened areas of the principal structure.

If the Commission makes findings that the principal structure is threatened and
is entitled to shoreline protection, which we are on record as strongly
objecting to, we agree with the staff's proposed mitigation fees based on
property values. This fee is meant to mitigate for the impact of placement loss,
fixing the beach and the associated loss of beach area and recreation. We feel
this fee will mitigate the impacts in the immediate area but will underestimate
the complete impact in that this seawall will eventually block lateral access to
the beach and impact up and downcoast beach access. We hope mitigation for this
impact may be added to the fee in some way.

As it is not likely we will be able to appear at the hearing we hope that you
can summarize our concerns to the Commission and place this on the record for
their review.

Best regards,

Jim Jaffee
VP CalBeach Advocates
Advisor to the San Diego County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation

More Trouble in Oceanside

I went on a walk with my camera again. These new photos are only 3 weeks after the first set of photos from my last blog. Frank Quan said that the seawall goes down 30 feet. See in the first two photos that a cave is forming behind the seawall right where it last failed. The horizontal bit of cement you see in the top portion of this photo is the bottom of the road.

The last photo shows the now complete loss of sand from last summer's dredge and beach fill, which was level with the street. Also you can see a hole forming in the seawall. The wall is only as thick as my hand. This hole goes from the tip of my fingers to my knuckles, leaving only 2 inches until it really is a hole. Judging by the previous photos, when that happens, a cave will form behind the wall.

Oceanside does not have a plan in place to address the eroding and dynamic coastline. It is obvious that the rip-rap is no longer doing its job, the initial repair of the failed road is failing, and the seawall is being damaged by the surf. Oceanside's big hope lies in a SANDAG study that is being done that will determine an extensive $50 million sand replenishment project to start in about a year and a half. Until then, they will fill the beach with sand from the dredge the Army Corps of Engineers does every year on the harbor mouth.

I think Oceanside needs some science behind the next beach fill. It seems that just dumping dredged sand on the beach does not help preserve the beach. In fact, without science, how do we know that the problems facing the Strand were not made WORSE by the fill? I also think planned retreat is something that Oceanside needs to start discussing. The homes west of the bluff from Tyson to Wisconsin are on the beach, and soon new measures will need to be enacted to "save" them from the encroaching tide.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oceanside Beaches Losing Sand

Beaches in the city of Oceanside have been losing sand for decades. Photos from the 1930's show wooden homes west of the bluff, on the beach, setback 100's of feet from the high tide line. Fast-forward to 2010 and homes that sit west of the bluff from Tyson Street South to Wisconsin Ave can enjoy white water right up to their doorsteps.

The "problem" of losing sand became a problem for homeowners when a storm event in the late 1970's caused part of the Strand to fail near Wisconsin Ave. Rip rap was introduced to protect the area from further failings of manmade structures. Rip rap has a life span of about 30 years and a trip to this area will show just what happens when rip rap has past it's prime.

The stacked rip rap is either settling or being washed away and is noticeably different than it was 6 months previous. When large waves coincide with high tides, the rip rap settles even further. A walk along the Strand tomorrow morning at high tide will show you what I'm talking about. The street and the homes are in the high tide line. This happens every winter, but this winter, the rip rap seems to have given up.

I called the Oceanside Beach and Harbor manager, Frank Quan to learn about Oceanside's long term plan. They have none. Other than more beach fills and a large SANDAG beach replenishment project in the next year and a half, they have no plan about what to do about the encroaching shoreline. The Army Corps of Engineers will dredge the harbor mouth next April, like they do every year, and that sand will be placed on the beach like it was last year. The City is hoping it will last until SANDAG has funding to add more sand.

How long until the City of Oceanside realizes that something has to be done about houses and roads built on the dynamic beach? How long will they continue to issue building permits west of the bluff? I think its time that the City of Oceanside addresses the obvious issue and starts talking about planned retreat or surrender.

Oceanside Coastal Erosion Photos, by Andrea Holeman

Andrea Holeman, a member of the Surfrider San Diego Advisory Committee, took these photos during the last big swell in Oceanside during the high tide.

....mmm, failing seawall. See all that damage, rocks were falling out of the concrete with every wave that splashed against the wall. Cars drive on this, people walk on it.

See That water line, thats the high tide line on the Strand in Oceanside.

Helpful Background Information

....is this what we want the coast to look like?

Dynamics Of Beaches Made Easy (paper):


Surfrider San Diego Chapter Meeting, Jan. 2009. Topic: Beach Preservation (video)