Posted on February 5, 2024
Oceanside’s City Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to proceed with a sand replenishment and retention project that includes pumping nearly a million cubic yards of sand from offshore deposits onto the beach and holding it there with two artificial headlands.
The next steps for the “speed bumps” idea will be to complete the final engineering and design for a project to be shovel-ready in early 2026, said Jayme Timberlake, Oceanside’s coastal zone administrator, in a presentation to the council.
The plan would need approval from the California Coastal Commission and other state, federal and local agencies, and the city would have to find grants to cover the construction costs expected to be between $30 million and $50 million.
“This is a great example of taking risks to mitigate a seemingly intractable problem,” said Councilmember Eric Joyce. “I am very proud that we are going forward.”
Like most cities in Southern California, Oceanside has seen its beaches diminish. Development along the coast and upstream have cut off natural sources of sand, and sea-level rise appears to be taking what’s left. The southern two-thirds of Oceanside’s 3.7-mile coastline has eroded to bare rocks, even during low tides.
Nearby cities such as Solana Beach and Encinitas, and San Clemente in Orange County, have begun massive, 50-year sand replenishment projects led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Meanwhile, Oceanside has pushed unsuccessfully for more than 20 years to get the agency to complete a shoreline sand study that is one of the first steps for a federal replenishment project.
“Oceanside has to do something on its own,” said Councilmember Ryan Keim. “We have to be creative.”
The city attempted to launch its own project in 2021 with the approval of a tentative plan that included building a series of groins — long jetty-like lines of rocks extending across the beach out into the ocean. However, cities from Carlsbad to Del Mar went on record as opposed to the plan for fear it would stop the southern migration of sand to their communities.
Oceanside stepped back from the 2021 plan as a result and took a different tack. The city hired Timberlake to oversee a new effort that would include greater public involvement and collaboration with neighboring cities.
Timberlake and the city staff launched what they call the Re:Beach competition and invited environmental design and engineering firms to submit proposals. The city selected the top three proposals and held three public meetings with the community and a jury of experts to further refine the ideas.
After the meetings, the Re:Beach jury recommended the selection of the Australian firm International Coastal Management, which the council approved Wednesday.
Funding for the additional engineering and design work is covered by the $2.59 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that the city allocated to the project last year.
The firm’s proposal calls for a pilot project to build two artificial headlands, or “speed bumps,” similar to the one now occupied by the city’s lifeguard headquarters beneath the pier. The exact locations are yet to be determined, but both would be about 150 feet wide and 150 feet long, surrounded by rock, with a flat surface at the level of the oceanfront street known as The Strand.
Recreational areas with seats, paths and native plants would top the headlands, which are intended to hold sand in place on the beach.
Also part of the project is dredging about 900,000 cubic yards of sand from an offshore location yet to be determined. About 300,000 cubic yards would be placed on the beach, and 600,000 cubic yards would be used to build a submerged offshore reef designed to protect the beach from large waves. Timberlake said Wednesday the sand could be deposited in phases.
About 20 people addressed the council on the issue. Most were residents in strong support of the plan, and some wanted the pilot project expanded to include the beach all the way from the pier south to Carlsbad.
“We urge you to include the entire Oceanside coastline during the planning phase, so (the expansion) can proceed after the pilot is successful,” said Marne Velasquez, president of an association representing residents of the gated St. Malo community at the southernmost end of the beach.
Only a few voiced opposition.
Carolyn Krammer, a longtime resident and advocate for beaches, said the headlands proposal is “nothing more than a groin project with a different name.”
“Anything that would slow down the swell, slow down sand movement is definitely not OK,” Krammer said.
Others emphasized that the proposal is only a pilot project. It will be monitored and changed as it unfolds, and can be removed if it proves unsuccessful.
Surfrider Foundation policy coordinator Mitch Silverstein, an Oceanside resident, said it’s too early for the foundation to take a position on the project, but he praised the council for pivoting away from the original groin project to work with other communities on an innovative solution.
“Surfrider follows the science,” Silverstein said. “We don’t support a project just because somebody tells us it will work …. and we don’t want to see a lot of money sunk into an unsuccessful project.”
He encouraged Oceanside to continue pursuing other beach restoration projects, such as a recently approved program to create sand dunes planted with native vegetation on wider sections of the beach near the city’s harbor.