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02 • 28 • 2017

Save the Wave at San Onofre

Don't let State Parks' misguided rock revetment destroy the fabled wave at San Onofre State Park Beach! Join us in protecting access without ruining the surf break!

During early 2017, the access road to San Onofre State Park’s historic Surf Beach suffered erosion from winter storms, high tides and large swells. In response, State Parks dumped 7,000 tons of boulders on the beach, creating an 800-foot rock revetment and concrete retaining wall, a revetment approximately 16- to 18-feet high and 15-feet wide.

If State Parks and the Coastal Commission had acted rationally and implemented a temporary response to the erosion event, we would now be in the position of developing a well-thought out plan to address erosion at Surf Beach with meaningful public input. Instead, we are stuck with a course of action set into motion based on State Parks’ short-sighted reaction. 

This revetment will likely ultimately destroy the surf if not removed!

  • Shoreline armoring, including revetments, are well-known to impact beaches in a number of ways:
  • Placement loss: loss of the beach area that is buried under the revetment
  • Impoundment loss: trapping of sediment that would otherwise contribute to the beach
  • Passive erosion: fixing the back of the beach as the sea level rises and narrowing the beach
  • Active erosion: causing rebound and end around effects that exacerbate erosion
  • Visual and aesthetic impacts: revetments are ugly and detract from natural beauty of the beach
  • Beach access: revetments can make access to the beach more difficult

Instead of the destructive revetment, Surfrider Foundation advocated for alternative solutions that would work with the coastal systems, such as the use of cobble and sand fill, to stabilize the road without harming the waves, and evaluating managed retreat options.

On June 13, 2019, the California Coastal Commission approved State Parks request to permit the revetment at San Onofre; the approval included condition language provided by Surfrider:

  • Annual monitoring reports that incorporate public input 
  •  “The permittee shall establish and advertise a method for the public to submit testimonials, videos and photos regarding surf and beach conditions over the course of the five years of monitoring, which will be included in the monitoring reports. 
  •  Long-term management plan that avoids hard armoring (due in 5 years)
  • Plan must include public input - “Prior to submittal of the five-year report, the permittee shall conduct public workshops to obtain public feedback on shoreline conditions and to educate the public on potential long-term management strategies for Surf Beach.”
  • Surf monitoring once per week (we asked for more but this was a compromise) and beach erosion monitoring 
  • Commissioners directed State Parks (and Moffatt and Nichol) to work with Surfrider to develop the surf monitoring plan and data collection parameters (though this was not incorporated into the permit)

State Parks and the Coastal Commission still have the opportunity to make Surf Beach a shining example of a coastal adaptation project. State Parks could work cooperatively with other state agencies and the local community to seek funding and input to make this beach resilient to future conditions as is being done at Surfer’s Point in Ventura and in Cardiff-by-the-Sea with the Cardiff Reef Living Shoreline.

Coastal Preservation