Posted on January 23, 2024
Efforts to add sand to the beach in San Clemente have been paused, with the contractor leaving the site following “ongoing sand quality issues” with the $14 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replenishment project, according to city and federal officials.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to allow the contractor, Manson Construction, to delay the project up to 70 days to ensure that quality sand is dredged for finishing the project, according to a joint statement by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, who represents south Orange County and northern San Diego County, and Mayor Victor Cabral.
Work is expected to restart in two months with better quality sand. The project’s completion is critical to San Clemente’s residents and economy, and for protecting local infrastructure, including a key rail corridor that runs along the coast in town and is vulnerable to the ocean’s waves without a sand buffer in place, officials said.
The Army Corps of Engineers informed officials on Jan. 13 that Manson Construction had decided to postpone the delivery of material to San Clemente. Now the dredger will return to San Clemente after it finishes a Solana Beach sand replenishment project, officials said.
Manson Construction is also contracted to do a larger $23 million sand replenishment project that will bring an expected 1.1 million cubic yards of sand to north Orange County beaches. That project kicked off in mid-December, just before San Clemente’s project got underway at the end of the month.
While the northern sand replenishment has been performed periodically since the 1960s, San Clemente’s project is being done for the first time using sand from a borrow site off of Oceanside. It is expected to be repeated every five years, for the next 50 years.
The San Clemente project, which has been more than two decades in the making, calls for 251,000 cubic yards of sand to be delivered to the shore between T Street and Linda Lane, including the north and south sides of the pier.
As work began, officials and residents worried about how rocky the material was that was being pumped onto the shore.
The pause here and move to Solana Beach “will allow for continued productivity to keep both projects moving forward while local, state and federal partners discuss next steps for the San Clemente Beach Nourishment Project,” Army Corps of Engineers officials said in a statement.
City officials are waiting for an update from the USACE that will help inform next steps for the local project, said Leslea Meyerhoff, San Clemente’s coastal administrator.
Before the contractor left San Clemente, it surveyed where it had dredged in the borrow site and the depth it had reached, Meyerhoff said. The city is waiting for the USACE to complete its analysis of the survey data, correlate it with the previous samples and advise if the contractor was close to reaching the sand source or indicate if it needs to dredge deeper or in a different location to reach the sand, she said.
Councilman Chris Duncan said what was being spread on the shore was not the quality of the sand seen in core samples and there are questions about the kind of dredger being used by the contractor.
“This seems like something that should have been worked out long before now,” he said. “We get a couple loads of gravel, and now they are gone?”
While waiting a few months may be better for avoiding winter storms that can produce challenging conditions, as well as big waves and tides, Duncan said the weather often warms up by March and the project could end up conflicting with a busy time at the beach.
“Because this is so important to the city and residents, it’s just one of these situations where, hopefully, we get a better understanding about what the realities are on the ground and how this works,” he said, “so we can build that into our expectations and communication to the community.”
Suzie Whitelaw, who helped form the citizen advocacy group Save Our Beaches in response to the erosion issues facing the city, said she was surprised when she started seeing the equipment being pulled off the beach last week.
Whitelaw said she is “very disappointed” the project has hit a snag and she hopes officials will push to find a new site with better sand, though it will need political backing because the project was approved for this one borrow location.
“If this project doesn’t go well, we will not get support from our community for future projects,” she said. “We need this to go well.”