City Continues Its Efforts To Minimize Beach Erosion

City Continues Its Efforts To Minimize Beach Erosion

San Clemente’s beaches and beaches everywhere, serve as one of the country’s most irreplaceable and invaluable assets. Erosion of sand in San Clemente has meant less beach area for the public’s enjoyment. This is not a new phenomenon as the sand has been eroding in San Clemente for three decades. It’s important to note that San Clemente is not unique in experiencing sand loss. Studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show that approximately 86% of California’s beaches are actively eroding. Beach erosion is a natural process to an extent, but so is the beach renourishment process. In a natural, balanced beach eco- system, erosion is offset by sand replenish- ment from inland rivers and streams and/or sea cliff erosion. Human activities have cre- ated an imbalance that accelerates beach erosion by diminishing, or in some places virtually stopping, the process of natural beach replenishment. Beach nourishment is the process of dumping or pumping sand from elsewhere onto an eroding shoreline to create a new beach or to widen the existing beach. This process does not stop erosion but gives the waves more sand to interact with. Waves erode the nourished sand in lieu of destroying existing infrastructure, which in San Clemente means the railroad tracks, lifeguard headquarters and restroom buildings. Because nourishment doesn’t stop erosion, it must be repeated to main- tain the beaches. This is called renourish- ment. The project’s lifetime is simply the time it takes for all the nourishment sand to be eroded away. After that time, the beach typically returns to its pre-nourishment width, and would need to be renourished with sand.

Since 2001, the City has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ad- dress the City’s eroding beach, which began with a reconnaissance study on beach sand erosion. After completing subsequent stages in a process required by the Corps, the Corps determined that beach sand replenishment is feasible here in San Clemente. They also determined it is in the nation’s interest to protect facilities, the local economy and the rail corridor (built in the late 1880’s) located at the toe of coastal bluffs in San Clemente. Additionally, for all of the recreational benefits beaches provide, beaches also provide vital tourism, storm damage reduction, environmental and economic benefits; for example, the City’s project would return $1.40 in benefits for every $1.00 spent. Therefore, it is critical and sensible to keep our beaches viable.

To enter the design phase of the sand replenishment project, the City requires federal funding because a project of this magnitude is cost prohibitive without as- sistance. The design phase is estimated at $1 million, with the Corps responsible for 75% of the cost and the City 25%. The cost for the recommended plan is estimated at $11.3 million for the initial sand placement, with the Corps providing 65% of the cost. The total project cost for ongoing sand placement over the 50-year project life is estimated at $99.1 million, with a 50-50 cost share. The table below summarizes the estimated design and construction costs and funding obligations.

At this time, the City is awaiting news if a federal funding plan to replenish San Cle- mente’s eroded beaches will be included in legislation that Congress is expected to approve some time in 2013. If approved, the sand replenishment work could begin in late 2015 or early 2016 if the project is ap- proved in the Federal budget and the City is able to provide its local funding share. Stay tuned…