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Firms preparing final pitch for Oceanside sand project that will preserve its shoreline

Sand flies out of a pipe along the beach just north of the Oceanside Pier during the dredging of the harbor in 2020.

Posted on November 8, 2023

Three design teams competing for Oceanside’s sand replenishment and retention project will make their final pitch to the community Dec. 13, with hopes the city will choose one of the proposals in January.

Participants in the city’s Re:Beach competition will present their ideas refined with suggestions collected from the public at two previous community meetings. Nearly 250 people participated in the most recent workshop Oct. 17.

A jury of local leaders and regional experts will choose a preferred design after the December meeting, and the Oceanside City Council will make the final decision. Completion of the project will require approval from local, regional, state and federal agencies. Also needed is funding for construction, which could cost $50 million or more.

Meanwhile, mayors and staffers from seven coastal cities in Orange and San Diego counties have begun meeting to review the Oceanside sand project and others that are underway or planned in the region.

Oceanside hosted the first so-called C7 meeting Oct. 26 with representatives of Dana Point, San Clemente,
Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar, said Jayme Timberlake, Oceanside’s coastal zone administrator on Thursday.

“The overall intention of the meeting was to see if there was any overlap with projects that are slated to begin in the next few years, and to see what kinds of funding hurdles we may be collectively experiencing while trying to bring forth these larger coastal projects,” Timberlake said.

No date was set for the next meeting, she said, but it probably will be after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins its Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project to widen beaches in Encinitas and Solana Beach later this fall. The federal project has been in development for more than 20 years and will take sand dredged offshore near San Clemente periodically over the next 50 years.

Another possibility is a third regional replenishment project by the San Diego Association of Governments, the regional planning agency. SANDAG completed regional projects in 2001 and 2012, taking sand from nearby offshore deposits and placing it along the coast at sites from Imperial Beach to Oceanside.

Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Imperial Beach city councils agreed this year to share the $200,000 cost for a planning, feasibility and economic analysis for the new project.

Engineering and environmental work for the proposal has not begun and is expected to cost $3 million, and construction has been estimated at roughly $37 million. Most of the construction costs would have to come from state and federal grants.

The annual clearing of the Oceanside harbor and periodic dredging of San Diego County’s coastal lagoons also provide sediment for beach nourishment. But it’s not enough.

Eroding beaches and sea-level rise have many coastal cities looking for answers.

The California Coastal Commission has long supported replenishment efforts, but generally opposed the construction of hardened structures such as rock revetments and groins to keep the sand in place. Among the concerns are that the structures can impede beach access, may contribute to erosion, and can stop the down-current flow of sand to other beaches.

That position could change as the situation grows more dire.

A representative of the grassroots group Save Oceanside Beaches, President and CEO Bob Ashton, went to the Coastal Commission’s meeting in October to request support for the Oceanside project, which includes ideas ranging from building artificial reefs to small islands, and found some apparent support.

“We will continue to work with the city and encourage their creativity,” said Kate Huckelbridge, the commission’s executive director. “It’s exactly the approach that we want people to take, to bring all the ideas to the table as we are trying to figure out how to adapt to sea-level rise.”

The Oceanside City Council voted in August 2021 to spend $1 million on plans and permits for beach groins and a sand bypass system.

However, Carlsbad’s City Council got wind of the plan and passed a resolution opposing the jetty-like groins or any hardened structure that could stop sand from flowing south to their beaches. Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar also went on record as opposed.

Since then, Oceanside has continued with the project, while downplaying the idea of groins and emphasizing a need to work cooperatively with all coastal cities.

Also, an increasing amount of data collected by University of California San Diego scientists and others shows that the dominant southward migration of sand along the coast is more complicated than once thought and is affected by many factors other than hard structures on the beach.

In January of this year, Oceanside approved a second phase of planning at a cost of $2.6 million that included the Re:Beach contest to find an innovative solution.

The three teams competing for the Oceanside design contract are: Deltares/MVRDV, which proposed building a peninsula off the beach to support biodiversity and recreational activities while serving as a type of breakwater to hold sand; SCAPE, ESA and the Dredge Research Collaborative, which proposed the concept of a sand dune park with a layered beach at Tyson Street; and International Coast Management, which proposed a rounded headland with a sand bar and an artificial reef.

The teams at the October workshop presented “well-defined sand retention concepts” based on more than 335 comments previously provided by the community, Timberlake said.

“The designers are seeking to create widened beaches that also afford the community additional benefits, such as improved access to the ocean or restored natural habitat,” she said.

Contest jury member Charles Lester, director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Center, said in a recent news release that the chosen project will help protect the coast for future generations.

“Adapting to sea level rise along our coast will be a huge challenge in coming decades, but Oceanside’s design competition is clearly taking it seriously by inviting the public to actively engage with some high-powered and creative technical teams thinking about Oceanside’s future shoreline,” Lester said.

Advisory panel member Jeremy Smith, a coastal engineer at the Coastal Commission, said all the designs presented were thought-provoking and warrant careful consideration.


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