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Encinitas panel to tackle ‘managed retreat’

An Encinitas City Council subcommittee that’s tasked with addressing sea level rise will take up “managed retreat” — an alternative to seawalls or replenishment projects that pipe offshore sand onto beaches.

The Encinitas council agreed last week that the subcommittee is the best vehicle to ponder managed retreat, which calls for allowing the shoreline to erode unimpeded to provide a natural source of sand for beaches.

Councilman Mark Muir initiated the agenda item so that the council could learn more about managed retreat, a concept that public speakers at council meetings have tossed around but the council hasn’t formally considered.

With managed retreat, structures near the bluffs are either relocated or demolished as the cliff erodes. It may also entail increasing the distance new buildings have to be from the bluff edge. For the most part, the city does not require managed retreat for coastal development, according to a city staff report.

Environmental groups often favor managed retreat over sand nourishment projects or fortifying seawalls that protect private property, but choke off sand from public beaches.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said she’s not sure how the public feels about managed retreat, so more input is needed.

“There needs to be some real conversation in our community, and maybe that starts at the subcommittee on whether that’s a concept that is supported,” Gaspar said.

The Encinitas council in late 2014 formed the subcommittee to look into ways to safeguard Encinitas’ coast from sea level rise. A recent city-ordered study from the firm Moffat & Nichol states ocean levels could rise by up to 3 feet in the area by 2067.

Earlier, Gaspar said the city has backed a 50-year sand replenishment plan to shore up beaches, a different approach than managed retreat. To avoid wasting time and money on projects, the city needs to settle on how it intends to protect the shoreline, she added.

Councilman Tony Kranz held up a copy of the book “Sea Cliffs, Beaches and Coastal Valleys of San Diego County,” which he said shows dramatic bluff erosion over time that will only continue. He added it’s prudent that the city consider all options in tackling bluff retreat and sea level rise.


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