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Manson Construction’s Del Mar Project may be Solution to San Clemente’s Beach Replenishment Project

Posted on January 26, 2024

Federal officials could use sand from new North County site to restart Orange County project

Del Mar may have the solution to San Clemente’s sand problem.

A spot in the ocean less than a mile offshore from Del Mar is producing clean, rock-free sand that’s being used to widen a narrow, eroded beach at nearby Fletcher Cove.

Planning, permitting and funding for the Fletcher Cove replenishment project in Solana Beach have been in the works for more than 20 years. The job includes carrying sediment from the same offshore source, sometimes called a “borrow pit,” about four miles north to a second spot at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

Local and federal officials now say there also could be enough clean sand at Del Mar to supply another U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project that began in December, but is now on hold, almost 40 miles to the north at San Clemente in Orange County.

Rocks and cobble dredged at what was to be an offshore borrow pit near Oceanside forced the temporary suspension of the San Clemente project soon after it started.

The poor quality of material dredged at Oceanside caused maintenance problems for the contractor’s equipment. Also, San Clemente residents were unhappy about the rocks, gravel and dark sand being pumped onto their popular beach.

After the suspension, the contractor, Manson Construction, moved its equipment south to start dredging for the Solana Beach project. Corps of Engineers officials, who oversee both sand replenishment projects, said they would study the Oceanside site further before resuming work in San Clemente.

Meanwhile, work at Fletcher Cove is progressing rapidly. In the first week of dredging, Manson placed about 110,000 cubic yards of sand there, where the beach is to be doubled in width to about 150 feet.

The 12-member barge crew works around the clock, seven days a week, to dredge the sand from the ocean. Bulldozers spread, level and compact the fresh new sediment during daylight hours on the beach.

“The sand is great,” said Solana Beach Marine Safety Department Sgt. Robert McPhee on Tuesday, Jan. 23. “We are thrilled. Down here it’s been smooth sailing for them.”

Because the borrow site is so close to Fletcher Cove, less than a mile away, the barge makes seven or eight trips a day from the dredge site to Solana Beach, where the sand is piped ashore.

The sand is being vacuumed up from an area 35 to 55 feet deep in the ocean. The contractor is permitted to dredge as deep as about 13 feet into the deposit, which covers an area roughly 4,000 feet by 5,000 feet square.

Corps of Engineers officials said Jan. 23 they are looking into whether the Del Mar borrow pit instead of the Oceanside site could be used for San Clemente. Details of the possible change were still being worked out.

Fletcher Cove is expected to be finished in six to eight weeks. During that time, the public access ramp to the beach will remain closed.

After Fletcher Cove, the contractor could return to San Clemente or move up to Moonlight Beach. Both the San Clemente and the Solana Beach-Encinitas projects are expected to resume with periodic replenishments every few years for the next 50 years, though so far only the first phases are funded.

The original plan called for the Del Mar borrow site to be used only for Fletcher Cove and Moonlight Beach. The Oceanside spot, offshore from the entrance to the Oceanside and Camp Pendleton harbors, was to be used only for San Clemente.

Rep. Mike Levin visited the Fletcher Cove work site Jan. 23 with Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner, where Levin said the Del Mar sand source appears to be the solution.

“It makes an awful lot of sense that they can use it for San Clemente,” Levin said.

The Democrat from San Juan Capistrano announced in early December he had secured $9.3 million in federal funding for the San Clemente Shoreline Protection Project. It was to place about 251,000 cubic yards of sand along 3,400 feet of beach near the San Clemente pier by the end of this month.

In January 2022, Levin reported obtaining $30.5 million for the Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project. The initial phase of that project will place 700,000 cubic yards of sand along 7,200 feet of the shoreline in Solana Beach and 340,000 cubic yards along 7,800 feet of beach in Encinitas.

The congressman also is advocating for the Corps of Engineers to finish an overdue Oceanside Special Shoreline Study, which examines the causes and possible solutions to coastal erosion.

The Corps began the study in 2016 with plans to complete it within three years, but progress was held up by a lack of funding. Completion of the shoreline study is a key component of obtaining federal sand replenishment projects like the ones underway for Solana Beach, Encinitas and San Clemente.

Heebner thanked Levin for his assistance and said the replenishment project will bring many benefits. Solana Beach, like most of Southern California, has seen its beaches badly eroded in recent decades.

A wider beach provides more room for recreation and provides a safe buffer between the ocean waves and coastal infrastructure such as roads, community facilities and private homes, Heebner said. The ribbon of sand slows the erosion of steep coastal bluffs and boosts the local economy, particularly the tourism industry.


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