Subcommittee to tackle protection of coast from sea rise


In the coming months, an Encinitas City Council subcommittee will look into ways to protect Encinitas’ coast from sea-level rise.

The full council voted unanimously Dec. 17 to set up a subcommittee, made up of councilmembers Tony Kranz, Lisa Shaffer and two representatives from the Encinitas Environmental Commission, to develop a plan addressing coastal vulnerabilities.

“We need to take action in Encinitas to protect our coastal infrastructure,” Shaffer said.

Driven by a changing climate, sea levels in California are expected to rise 3 feet over the next century, according to a 2012 study from the National Resources Council. The rise threatens Encinitas, particularly Coast Highway 101 and “restaurant row” in Cardiff, stated an agenda report from Kranz and Shaffer.

“Restaurant row is an immediate concern,” Shaffer said.

It will be key for the subcommittee to search for chances to collaborate, Shaffer said. For instance, the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy could relocate the mouth of the San Elijo Lagoon. If it does, sand from dredging the new mouth could be dumped on local beaches, absorbing wave energy.

Along those lines, representatives from the city of Del Mar, Solana Beach and other coastal groups will be invited to attend subcommittee meetings.

And the subcommittee will tackle how to best grapple with bluff erosion.

Kranz said the subcommittee would draw upon coastal erosion studies that city staff and regional agencies have already completed. He added he’s also eager to hear from the public on the topic, noting meetings for an urban agriculture subcommittee have been well attended by residents.

Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said although there’s regional, state and federal agencies working to slow coastal erosion, it’s important the city take action.

“It’s taking ownership of our city — not passing the buck and saying it’s someone else’s problem,” Blakespear said.

The subcommittee’s recommendations will later go before the entire council for consideration.

Councilman Mark Muir said it’s an important topic, but expressed concerns that the agenda report stated the subcommittee’s work could lead to the city hiring a special consultant who was an expert on coastal erosion.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar echoed him. “I don’t want to set up an expectation that funding for a consultant will be there,” she said.

They ultimately voted in favor of the subcommittee after the council agreed to strike the consultant language.

All four of the public speakers on the item applauded the city forming a subcommittee to take up the issue.

“For me, this is an early Christmas present,” Dennis Lees said.

Garth Murphy said the subcommittee shouldn’t look to seawalls to protect homes and infrastructure, adding that they cut off natural sources of beach sand.

And showing the council pictures of Moonlight Beach from 1947, Murphy said the subcommittee should find solutions that “take the long view” to preserve the coastline for generations to come.

The date for the first subcommittee meeting hasn’t been set.

On a related note, the council directed city staff in June to seek $500,000 in grant funding that would map out Encinitas areas vulnerable to sea level rise and investigate potential solutions like dune restoration.

After the meeting, Katherine Weldon, the city’s shoreline preservation manager, said the city has to yet to receive final word on whether it will be awarded the grant funding.

This article has been updated to reflect that Murphy, not Lees as originally stated, made the comment about taking the long view.