Burying our waves with 200 feet of sand in North County, San Diego
I've been hearing a lot of different perspectives and details regarding beach fill plans for North County San Diego. With the goal of getting an update out to all interested parties I reached out to Julia Chunn-Heer, who is our Campaign Coordinator in San Diego.
Jim: Julia, we've all heard some murmuring of quite large beach fill projects in North County San Diego. I've heard "100 feet of beach in Encinitas and 200 feet of beach in Solana Beach" and those are wild statements. Some of the best surf breaks in California are inside of these boundaries. What is reality, what is being proposed?
Julia: Jim, you are right, this is exactly what is being proposed. To make matters worse, it is for a 50-year planning horizon, not a one-time deal. So the stakes are extremely high, especially after what we have seen in Imperial Beach following Regional Beach Sand Project II (RBSP II). Whenever you are dealing with sand volumes of that size, there are unknowns and potentially unintended consequences. No one really knows how sand volumes of that size will behave.
JIm: Ok, that sounds crazy. So, as an example, the farthest reef with a breaking wave in Solana Beach… Tabletops… could be strongly altered? Tabletops could become a… beach break?!
Julia: Correct, the draft environmental review documents anticipate that Tabletops and other reef breaks in the area will be converted to beach breaks with increased closeouts at the two-year mark, so we are talking about long-term impacts here. Furthermore, these impacts are not deemed “significant” because according to the document these close outs will be better for beginner surfers. I’d say we need to protect our precious reef breaks; there are plenty of places for beginners to learn.
Jim: Why is so much sand being asked for? Why is so much of North County's economic driver… surfing… being put at risk? This doesn't seem to make sense. What am I missing?
Julia: Because the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) needs to meet a certain cost benefit ratio to justify the cost of construction with the benefits of storm protection and recreational benefits. However, the project proponents only looked at the recreational benefits of having increased towel space on the beach, not impacts to SURFING! Yeah, it is crazy I know. How many people do you think will be sitting on the beach if the surf breaks are ruined? Project proponents also failed to consider the economic benefits surfing brings to these communities, which is a huge oversight.
Jim: How does this process work? Who makes the call for such a massive project like this? How is all this sand being paid for? I've heard a few times that sand costs about "a million dollars for a mile of sand."
Julia: Well the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas are the project sponsors and the ACOE is doing all of the analysis. Ultimately, it will be up to Congress to determine if federal dollars will fund this project with a cost share from the cities. Regarding the costs, yeah, I have heard that average as well. But this project is actually $177 million for about 7.3 miles of coastline over 50 years. So depending on re-nourishment cycles, that is somewhere between 2.5 and 5 million dollars a mile per nourishment cycle.
Jim: it's a lose lose. We pay for the sand that will bury our favorite surf breaks. Ok, let's just push people towards engaging on this… how can we all get involved and stop this process?
Julia: People can attend the Encinitas and Solana Beach City Council meetings on May 8th starting at 6pm. They can write to those Councilmembers and ask for a “locally preferred alternative” of a reduced amount of sand that won’t bury our reef breaks. After all, some sand could be good for our beaches since the natural supplies have been cut off, but too much sand at once will be disastrous! Lastly, people can engage with our local Beach Preservation Committee, more information can be found here.
Jim: Any last points, where can people learn more?
Julia: Check out these links for more information:
Surfrider's comments concerning the Encinitas/Solana BeachReplenishment proposal
4 minute video: Surfers Respond to ACOE Replenishment Proposal
Summary of potential impacts to Solana Beach and Encinitas surf breaks according to the draft EIR/EIS
Economics of surfing here and here