Oceanside to launch sand retention study – The San Diego Union-Tribune – October 13, 2019



High tides and High waves

Water washes over the south end of The Strand at high tide in Oceanside.
(Charlie Neuman)

Federal shoreline project incomplete after nearly 20 years

Alarmed by Oceanside’s shrinking beaches, a group of residents succeeded this week in getting the city to consider taking on the federal government’s oversight of a local sand replenishment project.

The City Council unanimously approved a motion Wednesday by Mayor Peter Weiss to have staffers prepare a capital budget amendment to cover the anticipated costs of a sand-retention project. Details will be presented at an upcoming council meeting.

Oceanside has relied primarily on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the past for its annual spring dredging of the city harbor to pump sand on city beaches. But erosion has proceeded more rapidly in recent years. At high tide, waves crash against rock revetments along much of the city, leaving no dry beach left to walk on south of Tyson Street.

“We really don’t have at high tide any beach at all,” said Matt Stephens, a lifelong resident and retired lifeguard captain. “If we didn’t have the (rock) rip rap, it would be in the houses.”

Lifeguards used to be able to drive emergency vehicles on the sand beneath the pier at high tide, but no longer. Lifeguard towers are now perched on the rocks, and vehicle access to the beach is difficult in most places.

Stephens spoke at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, where residents of the recently formed group Save Oceanside Sand pushed the city to take action.

“It seems to us that the Army Corps has sort of given up on us,” said SOS member Dirk Ackema, a 30-year resident. “We feel it is the most important issue that faces the city at this point. Without a beach, the tourist industry and our business climate would definitely suffer.”

Oceanside received large infusions of sand from countywide replenishment projects led by the region’s planning agency, the San Diego Association of Governments, in 2001 and 2012. But most of that material has dissipated, and there are no plans for a third effort.

Oceanside was once known for its wide, sandy beaches. But that began to change after the Defense Department purchased the property for Camp Pendleton and built the harbor there in 1942.

The harbor has a long jetty built out into the ocean that restricts the natural flow of sand in the ocean current from north to south. Sand collects in the harbor mouth, requiring the annual dredging for maintenance, and on the beach in the nearby shadow of the jetty just south of the harbor.

But south of the San Luis Rey River, Oceanside is starved for sand. Studies by the federal government officially confirmed in 1953 that the Pendleton harbor was responsible for the deficit.

Congress approved the Water Resources Act of 2000 that authorized a Shoreline Special Study for Oceanside, at 100 percent federal expense, to look at ways to restore sand and mitigate beach erosion, according to a presentation Wednesday by Oceanside Public Works Director Kiel Koger.

However, after almost 19 years and spending $3.7 million, the Corps has not finished the shoreline study. Information in the completed study can be used to obtain federal and state grants for sand retention studies.

At this point an additional 31 months and $1.8 million would be needed to finish the federal study, Koger said.

Another recent failed federal project was the proposed dredging of the San Luis Rey River. Clean sand from that effort was to be trucked to Buccaneer Beach. But the flood-control effort was delayed and then halted in 2018 after the Corps of Engineers was unable to get the required permits.

Meanwhile, science shows the ocean is rising and options are dwindling.

Hard structures such as breakwaters, jetties and groins are widely discouraged because they have been shown to contribute to erosion and cause more problems than they solve. Sand replenishment is the most widely accepted solution, even though that is often short-lived.

“There is probably no way a hard structure would be approved by the Coastal Commission,” said Councilwoman Esther Sanchez. “We would just be spinning our wheels.”

Instead, she said, Oceanside would be better off pursuing something like the “living shoreline” project completed this year at Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas.

That project took sand excavated from the nearby San Elijo Lagoon as part of a $2.5 million restoration project and pumped it onto the beach. The sand is anchored by cobblestones and native plants in a way to stop or at least slow the natural erosion.