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Major Sand Replenishment Project Underway at Doheny State Beach and Capistrano Beach Park

Doheny State Beach in May 2023.

Posted on June 19, 2023

California State Parks, in partnership with County of Orange and the city of Dana Point, announced today a major sand replenishment project for the south day-use area of Doheny State Beach (SB) and neighboring Capistrano Beach Park. Large storm events coupled with shrinking inputs of sand from local creeks and bluffs have led to narrower, mostly cobble beaches. The project will replenish south Doheny and Capistrano beaches with up to 45,000 cubic yards of sand and serve to offset the coastal erosion that has resulted from large surf, coastal development, and climate change.

The project, which is expected to last about four months, will provide an equivalent amount of sand that would fill five Olympic-sized swimming pools. The south day-use area of Doheny SB and Capistrano Beach will remain open for public use, however, access will be restricted around any construction for public safety. Visitors are asked to stay a safe distance from the heavy equipment at the site.

“We are proud to partner with the city of Dana Point and the County of Orange on this sand restoration effort,” said State Parks Orange Coast District State Park Superintendent III Scott Kibbey. “This is an excellent example of state, county, and city agencies working together on a major sand replenishment project that will almost immediately allow for public use and enjoyment. We look forward to this next phase of close collaboration with our project technical team members and community partners to achieve this monumental partnership project.”

Orange County Public Works will transport approximately 300-400 cubic yards of sand each day to the south day-use area of Doheny SB, excluding weekends and holidays. Heavy equipment operators from State Parks and Orange County Parks will disperse the sand over approximately 1,775 feet, from the north reach of Capistrano Beach to the south day-use area of Doheny SB. This project aims to provide immediate relief to California’s coastline and natural protection to public facilities, including a popular multi-use path, restrooms, and public parking. State Parks and partners are looking into long-term solutions to better protect these public resources.

The source sand for the project comes from the Santa Ana River that was deposited following heavy winter rainfall. Without the planning efforts of the involved agencies, this material would have otherwise been disposed of in a local landfill. The sand has been tested for both physical compatibility (such as grain size), and chemical safety to ensure it will not contaminate the environment or be harmful to human health. Chemical analyses found that concentrations of inorganic and organic contaminants were below the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration screening levels deemed harmful to human health, and similar to concentrations found in typical beach sand. The results show the sand is very similar in size and color (compatible) with the resident sand and safe for placement on a public beach.

“Following an above average storm season Orange County Public Works staff discovered significantly more sand had deposited in the concrete portion of the Santa Ana River than is usual. The sand needed to be removed from the channel for flood conveyance and rather than let this beach-quality sand go to waste we reached out to our partners at Orange County Parks and State Parks to find out if they were able to use the sand to restore the beach,” said Regulatory Permitting Manager Giles Matthews for Orange County Public Works. “Everyone jumped into action, and I am very pleased to see our combined efforts have proved worthwhile. I look forward to walking along the replenished beach in Dana Point.”

Public Information Officer with Orange County Parks Danielle Kennedy added, “We estimate a cost savings rate of $77 per cubic yard of sand for material and hauling costs. This amounts to approximately $3.5 million savings for the joint project.”

Significant efforts have been made to avoid or minimize impacts on the environment and to local wildlife. Monitoring for nesting birds, including the threatened western snowy plover, has begun and will continue throughout the project. Monitoring for California grunion will also take place once sand from the project begins to accumulate on the beach will also take place prior to anticipated runs throughout the season. Currently, the beach is not suitable for California grunion nor other shorebirds that prefer sandy beach habitat. With the sand replenishment, the department expects this will encourage these species to return to the area.

Doheny SB is one of Southern California’s most iconic beaches for camping and day-use activities. Each year, millions of visitors from California and around the world come to Doheny and Capistrano beaches to swim, surf, sunbathe, walk, bike, bird watch, and gather with friends and family. The Dana Point area was primarily inhabited by the Acjachemen (Juaneño) tribe.

Sand being dropped off at Doheny State Beach on the first day of the sand replenishment project on June 15, 2023.


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