Encinitas council to weigh in on 50-year sand replenishment plan

Encinitas council to weigh in on 50-year sand replenishment plan
Sand is taken from offshore and dumped at Fletcher Cover in Solana Beach as part of a beach replenishment project this winter. Next Wednesday at 6 p.m., the Encinitas City Council will vote on a critical step of a joint sand replenishment project. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

ENCINITAS — One of Encinitas’ most precious resources will be mulled over next week at City Hall: Sand. 

On May 8 at 6 p.m., City Council will consider whether to allocate additional funds to a near-finished feasibility study for a plan to nourish local beaches for the next 50 years — a critical step for the project to move forward.

More than a decade in the works, Encinitas and Solana Beach partnered to craft a plan that would regularly nourish nearly eight miles of beaches, from the mouth of the Batiquitos Lagoon to the south through Solana Beach, excluding Tide Park.

For Encinitas, the plan calls for dredging sand from offshore and placing it on beaches every five years, adding nearly 100 feet of beach each time sand is dumped.

The first cycle would add 608,000 cubic yards of sand, while subsequent ones would unload 280,000 cubic yards of sand. The total cost of Encinitas’ portion of the 50-year project, which would begin in 2015, is estimated at $108 million, according to Katherine Weldon, Encinitas’ shoreline project manager.

The city and the Army Corps of Engineers would fund the project throughout its lifespan as money becomes available.

Three weeks ago, Solana Beach approved $147,000 to put the final touches on a feasibility study for the joint project. The feasibility study mapped the cities’ underwater reefs and modeled where sand goes when it moves offshore, as well as the environmental impact of the project, according to Weldon.

Now, the Encinitas City Council is also being asked by the Army Corps of Engineers to finalize the feasibility study with a $147,000 contribution. Weldon said the state will likely reimburse the $147,000 in funding.

If council OKs additional funds for the feasibility study, Encinitas and Solana Beach will likely be asked to approve the engineering phase of the project later this year, or possibly early next year. It’s unknown when exactly the project will be up for final approval at the federal and city level.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways contributed $3 million toward the project. Encinitas and Solana Beach have each funded $500,000 in technical studies and labor that informed the project, as well as a separate SANDAG sand replenishment project. Encinitas’ $500,000 came from the transient occupancy tax — a tax on short-term rentals passed by residents in 2008.

Currently, Encinitas beaches lose 102,000 cubic yards of sand every year. Shrinking beaches contribute to bluff collapses, and put homes, businesses and infrastructure in danger.

Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers presented four replenishment alternatives to Solana Beach and Encinitas that varied in size and interval. Residents from both cities gave input on the options in February.

Based on feedback from the public, as well from Solana Beach and Encinitas officials, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended “alternative EN-1A.”

The initial alternatives ranged from 340,000 to 800,000 cubic yards every cycle for Encinitas beaches, compared with the chosen alternative of 680,000 cubic yards of sand during the first cycle and 280,000 for future ones.

How much is 280,000 cubic yards of sand? For reference, SANDAG’s sand replenishment this past winter, a separate countywide project, unloaded 287,000 cubic yards of sand on Encinitas beaches.


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