Posted on December 20, 2023
What is a beach without the sand?
Those grains mean everything for coastal communities like Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Sunset Beach.
“Without sand, Newport Beach would simply be just called Newport,” Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill said.
O’Neill was one of several local leaders who gathered Wednesday at Surfside Colony for a groundbreaking ceremony for Stage 13 of the Surfside-Sunset Beach sand replenishment project.
The $23.1-million project, which began late last month, is expected to dredge and backpass 1.2 million cubic yards of sand along the coastline. The sand is in the process of being deposited on the beach, where it will eventually make its way down the Orange County coast via ocean currents to Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, 17 miles in all, helping protect homes and the bluffs.
Sand is pumped from a ship two miles offshore in Sunset Beach as part of the sand replenishment project. (James Carbone)
Manson Construction was awarded the contract for the work, and Stage 13 is estimated to be completed in February. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the project, which began in the 1960s as the San Gabriel to Newport Bay Beach Renourishment Project. It originally replenished the sand on local beaches at 1.75 million cubic yards every five years in perpetuity, as remediation for beach erosion damage.
“We understand the need for the sand, and the protection it provides for our beach communities,” Col. Andrew Baker of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “Since 1964, we’ve placed more than 26 million cubic yards of sand along the shoreline from Anaheim Bay to Newport Pier.”
Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark takes pictures during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Surfside-Sunset Beach sand replenishment project on Wednesday. (James Carbone)
But money has dried up in recent years, until U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Surfside) helped secure $15.5 million to start Stage 13 of the project.
“If we have a storm here, we are going to have major traumatic damage to this coast,” said John Kriss of the Surfside Colony Stormwater Protection District, who has lived in Surfside since the mid-1970s. “Thank you so much for providing Stage 13, because this is going to protect us for two or three years, and that’s great.”
Newly appointed Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark served as emcee for Wednesday’s event, which also included remarks from Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, state Sen. Janet Nguyen, Orange County Supervisors Andrew Do and Katrina Foley and Seal Beach City Councilman Joe Kalmick.
John Kriss from the Surfside Colony Stormwater Protection District talks about the importance of the Surfside-Sunset Beach sand replenishment project during Wednesday’s ceremony. (James Carbone)
Project partners include California State Parks, the county of Orange and the cities of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Seal Beach.
Foley, whose District 5 includes Costa Mesa south to San Clemente, asked the crowd to look around at each other on Wednesday to all of the representatives of different levels of government.
“This is good government,” she said. “This is bipartisan, good government. It took several years, three different congresspeople, three different supervisors, many mayors, a couple of state senators, a couple of Assembly members. But it was focused on everything that is right about government, identifying local issues, finding solutions and working together and crossing the aisle to make things happen.”
Members of the Huntington Beach City Council pose for photos during Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony. (James Carbone)
Susie Ming, chief of the U.S. Army Corps’ Los Angeles District Coastal Section, was lauded for overcoming environmental and bureaucratic hurdles to help the project reach the finish line.
But the fight isn’t over.
“We’re already looking at Stage 14,” O’Neill said. “The sand doesn’t wait for us, it just keeps moving.”
A berm is formed along the shore to help save the sand being pumped from a ship two miles offshore for the Surfside-Sunset Beach sand replenishment project. (James Carbone)