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50-year sand project up for environmental approval

A jagged crack near the base of a bluff in Encinitas is an early indication that the bluff will fail. A project for Encinitas and Solana Beach proposes restoration efforts to protect the shoreline, making circumstances such as this less likely.
A jagged crack near the base of a bluff in Encinitas is an early indication that the bluff will fail. A project for Encinitas and Solana Beach proposes restoration efforts to protect the shoreline, making circumstances such as this less likely.
( / Photo courtesy of Greg Fuderer)

The Encinitas and Solana Beach city councils next week will consider environmental approval of their joint 50-year sand project.

Under the plan, offshore sand would regularly be spread on local beaches with the goal of protecting infrastructure and coastal access. Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade said environmental impact documents don’t anticipate that the project will hurt marine life or surfing over the long term.

But, he added, the documents do point out the possibility of beach nourishments affecting reefs off the city’s coast, which would be closely monitored.

“Typically, a concern in a beach replenishment project is (that) sand will come off of the beach and cover the reef,” Wade said, noting this could affect marine life.

As a safeguard, biologists would analyze the reefs before and after the project. If marine life such as lobsters are significantly affected, the Army Corps of Engineers would be required to construct an artificial reef to provide a replacement habitat, he stated.

“We don’t believe construction of another reef would be necessary, but obviously, monitoring it is necessary,” Wade said.

He said sand nourishments widen beaches for recreation and stave off coastal erosion.

“It protects properties on the bluffs, as well as infrastructure,” he said.

The environmental documents don’t show any significant impacts to surfing or marine life in Encinitas, according to Encinitas Public Works Director Glenn Pruim. He said the project would be monitored in Encinitas as well.

Under the project, Solana Beach’s first replenishment would be 700,000 cubic yards of sand, followed by 290,000 cubic yards of sand every decade during the project’s lifespan. Encinitas would receive 340,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach during the initial replenishment, followed by around 220,000 cubic yards of sand every five years.

The amount of sand was reduced more than two years ago to satisfy the California Coastal Commission. A majority of commissioners voted against a larger plan out of concern that too much sand would overwhelm marine life and surfing reefs, but later signed off on the scaled-back project.

Last spring, the Army Corps Civil Works Review Board voted to advance the project, making it much closer to being eligible for federal funding.

It’s estimated the entire project would cost $164.9 million. The Army Corps under draft plans would fund about $87 million. The cities, the state and potentially other funding sources would pay for the rest.

“At this point, we haven’t sat down with Solana Beach and the state to determine how those costs would be apportioned,” Pruim said in an email. “We will focus on those conversations once we’re past the environmental clearance phase of the project.”

If the Encinitas and Solana Beach councils give environmental approval, the next step is engineering design, which could take up to two years. Wade said there are quite a few moving parts, but if everything lines up, the first replenishment would be in 2018 or 2019.

The Encinitas council meeting starts at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 at City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Ave. Solana Beach’s council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Oct. 14 at City Hall, 635 Coast Highway 101.


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