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Oceanside continues to search for sand, downplaying the possibility of ledges

Posted on February 1, 2023

Oceanside has approved the next phase of its sand restoration and retention project at a cost of $2.6 million, though city officials have downplayed the possibility of an earlier proposal to build beachfront ledges.

“We are very sensitive to the groin issue,” City Manager Jonathan Borrego said at the Oceanside City Council meeting on Wednesday. “It’s a little disheartening to hear the public keep presenting this as a bar project. The idea is to take a step back and look for more innovative solutions.”

Plans to build four 600-foot ledges extending 1,000 feet apart into the ocean at the end of Wisconsin Avenue were presented to Oceanside City Council in August 2021, and the council agreed to spend $1 million spend on plans and permits. However, the idea sparked outrage among coastal communities in the South, who feared the structures would starve their sandy beaches.

Also part of the 2021 proposal was a bypass system to move sand around or under the Oceanside harbor. The city built a bypass system in the 1980s that was operational shortly before it failed.

“Our current approach in this new and permitted Phase 2 project is very different,” Jayme Timberlake, the city’s coastal zone administrator, said in an email Thursday.

“For starters, we will be investigating local waters off our coast to find an improved source of sand to feed our beaches,” she said. “This is beneficial to us as a city that funds our own feeding program as we may be able to use a smaller excavator to deliver small but effective amounts of sand to the beach. Extracting sand from local coastal areas has the added benefit of reintroducing sand into the Oceanside coastal cell, benefiting both Oceanside and coastal cities.”

Oceanside’s coastal cell extends from Dana Point to La Jolla, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The entire cell shares sand carried by ocean currents, tides, and wave patterns. Sand within the system moves predominantly north-south.

Most of the sand that now lies on Oceanside’s beaches is being dredged from the city’s port. Studies show that sediments from the harbor are fine-grained and are quickly swept away by waves and tides. Coarse sand found in the ocean just outside the surf zone has been used before and lasts longer on the beach.

Phase 2 of the proposed pilot also includes the design of a sand retention structure. The city will explore a hybrid approach, something that retains placed sand but also offers environmental and community benefits, Timberlake said.

The city hasn’t ruled out groynes, although other potential sand retention ideas include building an artificial reef or man-made dune system like the Living Shoreline project completed in Encinitas in 2019. For this project, approximately 30,000 cubic yards of sand was dredged from the San Elijo Lagoon and placed on a rock cover at Cardiff State Beach. The manufactured dunes were topped with native vegetation.

Del Mar and Solana Beach councilors sent letters to Oceanside this month expressing their support for Oceanside’s Phase 2 revisions and renewed concerns about ledges.

“The city supports your efforts to undertake a beach regeneration and sand retention project provided there is no adverse impact on sand supplies to coastal cities,” read a Jan. 25 letter from Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner.

Solana Beach “still has concerns about and would oppose any project that proposes standalone rock outcroppings as the ultimate design solution,” Heebner said. “We strongly encourage Oceanside to continue to explore nature-based projects and/or innovative hybrid projects that include both initial and regular beach rehabilitation.”

The council voted 5-0 Wednesday to approve the $2.6 million Phase 2 contract with Long Beach-based consulting firm GHD Inc., which also conducted the first phase. The second phase includes outreach to the public, coastal cities and groups such as the Surfrider Foundation, as well as engineering, analysis, environmental design and permitting.

GHD will also lead a design competition, due to be completed by the end of 2023, inviting up to three outside design firms to submit ideas for the project. A final draft will be approved by the City Council.

Speakers at Wednesday’s meeting included members of the Save Oceanside Sand group, who have continued to advocate for groin areas. They cited the example of Newport Beach, where between 1969 and 1973 an eight groyne field was created and filled with 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment from the Santa Ana River.

“They’re still there and still doing what they’re supposed to do,” SOS co-founder Nick Ricci told Oceanside Council.

Other residents, such as Carolyn Krammer and Shari Mackin, said any money spent studying the groin is wasted.

“That will never stand up to the (regulatory) authorities or our neighbors,” Mackin said.

“We cannot support the proposal as long as it contains hard structures,” said Krammer. “Sand capture will impact the sand supply of beaches from South Oceanside to Del Mar.”

Council members expressed mixed feelings about the use of ledges.

Mayor Esther Sanchez said she would never support a proposal that includes hardened structures on the beach.

“I’m very aware that lasts are part of that,” Sanchez said. “They weren’t eliminated, and that’s why it continues to be a controversial project.”

Council member Peter Weiss said he “doesn’t necessarily” say no to afford and is interested in any ideas that staff and consultants suggest.

Councilor Ryan Keim said he would never approve a project that causes problems for “our coastal neighbors” but: “We have to do something now, it’s been far too long.”

Oceanside has a long history of beach erosion, accelerated by the construction of the Camp Pendleton Boat Basin in 1942, followed by the Port of Oceanside in the early 1960s. During that time nearly 20 million cubic yards of sand, mostly dredged from the harbor and its entrance, was deposited on Oceanside’s beaches.

Now almost all the sand is gone, especially south of the pier where the waves smash the rocks and there is no beach at all at high tide.


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