Encinitas seeking grants to fight sea level rise


Combating sea level rise recently became more of a priority in Encinitas.

The council unanimously directed staff at the June 18 meeting to apply for a total of $500,000 in grant funding that would map out areas vulnerable to sea level rise and investigate potential solutions such as dune restoration.

Katherine Weldon, the city’s shoreline preservation manager, said coastal erosion has been a problem since the 1980s. When beaches are parched, large storms damage roads and homes.

Because of sand replenishment projects over the past 15 years, the beaches are in pretty good shape right now, she noted. However, she added, rising sea levels pose a threat over the long term.

Weldon cited a 2012 study from the National Resource Council that found sea levels in California are expected to rise 3 feet over the next century. The combination of sea level rise and periodic El Nino events holds the potential to be “very destructive,” she said.

The city will pursue $250,000 in grant funding from the California Ocean Protection Council. If awarded, the grant would map local roads, sewage treatment plants and other pieces of infrastructure that would be affected by higher sea levels.

Building on that, the grant would illuminate adaptation strategies.

The city is also trying to secure $250,000 from the Coastal Conservancy Climate Ready Grant Program to look at natural or “green” solutions to absorb wave energy, such as dune restoration or oyster beds.

Councilwoman Teresa Barth said the grant applications should specify the need to also look at potential impacts to coastal agriculture.

“The situation with the inundation — it’s not just that water comes up and sits there,” Barth said. “It’s salt water — and that destroys agriculture.”

The city has a 50-year plan to regularly replenish beaches, a key factor in staving off sea level rise. However, the project recently missed a federal funding deadline, and the city won’t have the chance to reapply for at least two years.

In the meantime, Encinitas plans to expand a program that places local sand from construction projects and excavated lagoons on beaches.

The council approved an environmental analysis of the local sand project at the June 18 meeting, though it asked the Environmental Commission to also review the document in the future.