Posted on January 17, 2024
Sand placement activities have ceased near the San Clemente Municipal Pier, according to local officials, as the San Clemente Shoreline Project’s contractor Manson Construction has moved its operations south to Solana Beach.
Concerns over the project’s hopper dredge pumping out cobble and other materials onto the beach south of the pier prompted the delay, San Clemente Mayor Victor Cabral told San Clemente Times on Monday, Jan. 15. Additionally, Cabral and Rep. Mike Levin released a joint statement on Monday regarding the project, which was expected to place 251,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach north and south of the pier, creating a 50-foot-wide beach.
“We are extremely disappointed that this important sand replenishment project is being delayed,” the statement from Cabral and Levin read. “Its completion is critical to San Clemente’s residents and economy, and for protecting our local infrastructure like the LOSSAN Rail Corridor, which provides a vital rail connection for the region and is key to our national security.”
Officials expect a roughly 70-day delay before Manson Construction returns to San Clemente.
The San Clemente Shoreline Project officially began on Dec. 15, with sand placement starting a few days later, as Manson Construction waited for a part for the dredge. The project took more than two decades to come to fruition, requiring an allocation of $9.3 million from the federal government that was secured by Levin to get the project’s Phase I off the ground.
Manson was intended to obtain from a borrow site off the coast of Oceanside – more specifically, the mouth of the Santa Margarita River.
Levin’s release also stated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) had conducted 20 years of “study, analysis and numerous vibracore sampling efforts” to identify the correct borrow site, from which the dredge has yet to pick up the sand USACE believes is there.
“The USACE must complete this long-awaited and long-planned project by ensuring the dredge contractor returns to San Clemente in the promised 60-70-day time period to deliver the quality and quantity of sand as envisioned under the project authorized by Congress,” the release added, saying that more delays would be “unacceptable.”
Cabral told SC Times the project encountered significant delays from the start, as he claimed Manson didn’t operate from the right site and that its machinery was ill-prepared to handle the cobble that was found. The amount of cobble that was picked up forced Manson to conduct maintenance on the dredge.
Manson Construction had not responded to requests for comment as of this posting.
On Dec. 26, San Clemente City Manager Andy Hall wrote to Manson Chief Operating Officer Jim McNally, including Levin and Andrew Baker, commander colonel of the USACE’s Los Angeles District, in the letter.
Hall did so after the dredge delivered approximately five loads of cobble and gravel, Cabral said. In the letter, the city manager asked Manson to “immediately” stop pumping cobble onto the beach and urged the company to review the data provided by the USACE that indicated the location of “beach-quality sand.”
“We request that Manson resume operations once your company has located the high-quality beach and that the City of San Clemente, the State of California as our non-federal partner, are expecting and have paid for,” Hall’s letter read.
Leslea Meyerhoff, the city’s contracted Coastal Administrator, wrote to the SC Times on Jan. 5, discussing the impact of the storms and swells of early January. She wrote that the weather had impacted the dredge’s ability to connect to the offshore pipe, and that Manson would resume operations within the next few days.
Additionally, the annual King Tides hit California shores on the mornings of Thursday, Jan. 11, and Friday, Jan. 12, according to the California King Tides Project.
Over that period, Meyerhoff and Cabral continually met with USACE staff to receive updates on the quality of sand delivered to the beach, with concerns over the amount of cobble present.
On Saturday, Jan. 13, the USACE informed the city and Levin that Manson was postponing the San Clemente project and moving onto Solana Beach.
The city will soon have the results of a USACE survey that analyzed where Manson dredged and how deep the dredge reached, according to Cabral.
“What we think and believe is that they haven’t gone deep enough,” he said. “…We’re hoping that they come back in 70 days, and we’re encouraging them to come back. We will have better data of where the sand is, and we hope that they will share our objective, that we’ve got to find that sand and pump it out as quickly as possible onto our beach.”
Cabral acknowledged frustrations from city officials over the delays, adding that despite their emotions, the city has no control over Manson, as there isn’t a contract between the two.
Manson is one of the largest companies worldwide that conducts similar projects, according to Cabral, and it is a “trusted” partner of USACE.
“That’s all we can do, is hope that we can encourage them to come back in a timely fashion and to finish the project here in San Clemente,” he said.