Sunday, February 11, 2007


Pam Slater-Price is a San Diego County supervisor on the board's Clean Water Subcommittee and SANDAG's Shoreline Preservation Committee. Her 3rd District includes the coastal communities of Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, Encinitas and Leucadia. She has an editorial in today's North County Times about sand replenishment.

Answers must go past Army Corps solution

For decades California's many jurisdictions have had an uncooperative agreement with Mother Nature. They have not been able to figure out the puzzle of our beaches. Beach sand retention and replenishment is the Rubik's Cube of preservation efforts.

Years of interference and neglect have hurt our coast. A lack of understanding, false starts and even faulty science have gotten us to where we are today. It doesn't mean we didn't try to do it right. California just didn't know how.

Sand that once flowed freely to replenish all our county's beaches bottlenecks at points along the coast and leaves many beaches sand-starved. Since the 1970s, governments constructed debris basins to collect sediments, installed breakwaters and jetties that trapped sand, built sea walls that cut off sand supply for our eroding bluffs, and concreted river channels preventing sand flow to the beaches. For decades, sand mining and development impeded or prevented the flow of sand.

What humans have caused, humans must now correct.

It is imperative that local governments work cooperatively to adopt SANDAG's beach sand replenishment plan, tailored to our region. And we must put in place the latest technology to keep that sand on the beach. Securing our fair share of federal funding should be a regional priority. Since East Coast states are relentless in their quest for beach funds, we too must work harder in Washington, D.C. We must also purchase a dredge with Proposition 84 money. Additionally, we need to plan and implement phased retreat from the bluffs to undo the mistakes of the past. Hardscape sea walls must be avoided as much as possible, and keeping sand on the beach provides a superior solution to bluff failure.

As late as 2005 the Army Corps of Engineers said its optimal plan is beach nourishment with notch fills. Good plan, but it's clear that local governments must think well beyond that effort or the region will continue to play catch-up to maintain our beaches.

Four million tourists use our beaches annually. Weather and beaches are the region's No. 1 draw. Perhaps hotel room taxes should be raised on those 4 million visitors. A percentage should be directed to beach sand replenishment and retention.

Clearly, those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it. So we must go directly to the source to stop erosion, say no to coastal projects that will deplete sand, make sand retention a priority, and increase fines for overmining of sand.

Through hard work this region can reverse the damage decades of interference and neglect have caused along our coast. But it will take a concerted will to get it done.

The die was cast long ago. It is past time to set things straight.

I get nervous when the government starts playing around with the beaches. The Army Corps of Engineers already destroyed Seaside beach once and it looks like they are doing it again. Sand replenishment programs are often a joke. Sometimes we get horrible quality sand. Sometimes the reefs and kelp beds are simply smothered under a blanket of sand, destroying them.

All the jetties and harbors and development of the coast have mucked up the natural sand flows. Now we have to spend big money dredging and pumping sand to keep sand on our beaches. Sand is still the best way to reinforce the bluffs so that they don't fall. But we must be mindful of the way replenish our beaches.

My number one concern is our fragile kelp beds. The kelp is just now making a comeback. Ideally, the kelp should stretch the entire coast of Encinitas and should be thick and wide. The kelp forest provide a nursery habitat for fish and lobster. The kelp beds groom swells and increase the quality of our local surf spots by keeping the waves clean and glassy all day.

Kelp needs to attach itself to rock and reef, it won't attach to a sandy bottom.

Since this photo was taken the kelp beds have grown in size but they are still not complete. The majority of the Leucadia coast should have nice thick, wide kelp beds.

In Australia the government worked with the local surfers to create these epic long sand points for their dredging projects, creating perfect waves. If we were smart we would do the same thing here.


  1. I have surfed in front of the outfall pipe when they were dredging in Oceanside. It was like a little point break. The On Fire brothers were catching cape st fransis nuggets all day long. We should make little point out of the sand even if only lasts a couple weeks!

    Please don't put too much of the crappy sand that a covers the reefs and makes the breaks shitcake.

  2. If Pam Slater Price is involved something is rotten in Denmark. She has no love for anyone except herself.

    Take anything she writes with a grain of salt(sand).

    We need to open upon up or lagoons to natural flushing and we will have a lot sand again. Keep the seawalls off our bluffs.

  3. who cares anywaysFebruary 11, 2007 2:30 PM

    Openning up the lagoons is not the answer to improving the sand budget over the medium term. San Elijo and Batiquitos have little impact on the sand budget, and this was the case for a long time. There was an engineer who wrote about this for a long time. He was right that with the lagoons closed up that the sand would not flow, only he didn't pay attention to the volume of sand coming into those two lagoons. It is not much compared to the amount of sand we should be getting from the Santa Margarita, San O, San Mateo, and San Luis Rey.

  4. I am sorry, but I just don't buy the "seawalls are the cause of our sand loss" argument. At least in Leucadia, seawalls did NOT cause the cobblestones of the 1990's.

  5. Seawalls are not the cause, and no one here said they were. However, they do not help at all.

    Good post, JP. Previous anonymous is right; seawalls are not good for many reasons, including the erosion they increase at either end of the wall. They also further diminish our narrow beaches and do prevent natural erosion. Don't buy and build on failing bluffs! Beacons can be repaired and has served us for many decades without an ostentatious, hardscape, seawall.

  6. I also don't like the fact that we are overdoing it on sand replenishment, destroying kelp beds, and shipping in poor quality "sand," which is really more like dirt.

    Our beaches traditionally have been narrow, with little distance between the surf and the bluffs. We had some rocks, and super big storms and tides in the 90's that swept out much of the sand in the winters, especially.

    But we have come too far in the other direction. Yes, we could look to the innovations in Australia, and not keep piling up more and more dirt that smothers out the kelp and ruins the breaks.

    A balanced, thoughtful approach is essential, here.

  7. The lagoons should be kept open and tidal at all times. This will build good sandbars for surfing and keep the lagoons healthy. It won't affect the rest of the beaches that much but it should still be done.

  8. Seawalls? Duke University geologist Orrin Pilkey said, "The problem is people build too close to the shoreline and now they come to us to save them," Pilkey said. "Why should we be responsible for their foolish act?"

    Sand Replenishment? "Depositing sand, of course, suffocates everything that's living. But the ecosystem can recover in three to four months if the material brought in is similar to the beach's natural sand", said Charles "Pete" Peterson, a professor of marine sciences at the University of North Carolina.

    "When the high tide comes in, people want to be able to be on the beach," he said.


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