Coastal Preservation, Shoreline Armoring
September 01 2017

Hard Armoring is Destroying Our Beaches

by Mandy Sackett

Californians love their beaches. In a state full of wonderful wilderness options, no images of California are more iconic than sand, surf, sunsets and waves. People move here, visit here, and celebrate here because California’s beaches inspire that much love. That love, by the way, also generates a $44 billion economy per year.

Our coast, when protected, serves as a destination that people from around the world, regardless of income, background or social status, can visit and enjoy. And yet not only are our beaches disappearing, but in many cases, specific actions are actively speeding the destruction along. Hard armoring is destroying our beaches, one emergency permit at a time.

When we meet rising seas with seawalls and revetments, we lose our beaches, the recreational opportunities they provide and the benefits our coastal economy brings to the entire state.

At the California Coastal Commission’s August meeting in Calabasas, Surfrider’s regional California staff presented these concerns in more detail – highlighting several case studies where armoring can and should be removed. Check out the video clip here:

Moving Forward

The following recommendations are ways that California, as well as other coastal states in the U.S., can best protect our natural shorelines:

  • Stop giving “emergency” permits a pass. A bluff or structure that has been failing for years or a property owner’s lack of planning should not be considered an “emergency;" the default should be requiring a full coastal development permit (CDP) to allow for thoughtful analysis and public input.
  • Encourage the use of softer solutions, especially for temporary emergency situations. Hard armoring should always be a last resort option.
  • The cumulative statewide impacts should always be considered in the granting of emergency permits. Approximately 20 percent of California’s coastline south of Bodega Bay is covered in some form of armor – how much of our coast will we sacrifice?
  • If emergency armoring is approved, include and enforce an expiration date and removal plan. The Coastal Commission could also require a bond to ensure funding exists for removal of the seawall or revetment once the emergency permit expires.

If we keep armoring our shore, we will lose it. To effectively manage beach erosion with a long-term approach, the state’s shoreline must be viewed as the connected system it is and we must stop allowing a patchwork of armoring. Otherwise, at this rate, our public beaches will continue to be replaced with progressively larger rocks and structures, destroying our shared and most cherished natural resource.

You can help protect our coasts from every threat they face.

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