Bluff erosion threatens Coast Highway 101

Bluff erosion threatens Coast Highway 101
A construction crew begins excavation work on a portion of Coast Highway 101 near the San Elijo Lagoon on Thursday. Major tidal activity has threated to compromise the highway. Photo by Tony Cagala

ENCINITAS — Recent bluff erosion near the San Elijo Lagoon has threatened to compromise Coast Highway 101, city officials said.

Tidal flows into and out of the mouth of the lagoon have carved into the slope in two areas along the east side of Coast Highway 101 just south of the mouth of the lagoon to the point that the eroded areas are just feet from the highway.

The smaller of the two erosion areas undercut the roadway and prompted the city to close one of the road’s two northbound lanes.

Coast Highway 101 is one of the city’s primary north-south arterial roads and serves as an alternate route for commuters along Interstate 5.

Soil erosion has been an issue along the stretch due to the sandy slope the highway rests on.

City officials cite recent major tidal activity — where huge waves caused some of the highest tides on record — as the primary culprit.

“The situation requires immediate attention before Highway 101 starts to be undermined,” City Manager Karen Brust wrote in a memo to the City Council.

City public works staff have come up with a solution: crews will excavate the scoured areas and fill them with rock piles known as rip rap. Brust said the plans have received the blessing of the San Elijo Conservancy’s Executive Director Doug Gibson.

On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously approved Brust’s request for a declaration of emergency.

City code allows for the city manager to issue a no-bid contract for the work in the event of such an emergency declaration.

The emergency work is expected to cost around $60,000.

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