50-year sand project clears another hurdle

50-year sand project clears another hurdle
Congress passes separate but similar bills last month authorizing a plan that will add sand to the beaches in Encinitas and Solana Beach over a 50-year span. The next major step for the project, in the works for nearly two decades, is to secure funding. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

REGION — An Army Corps of Engineers project that would add sand to Solana Beach and Encinitas beaches during a 50-year span cleared another hurdle last month when the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed two separate but similar bills authorizing the plan.

The Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, includes authorization for the Army Corps of Engineers to complete coastal sand replenishment and storm damage reduction in both cities, which have been working collaboratively on the proposal for more than 16 years.

WRDA is bipartisan legislation to help address the needs of the America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection and other water resources.

“With the passage of WRDA, it’s my hope we can bring much-needed relief to Solana Beach and Encinitas coastlines that have been in need of repair and sand replenishment for years,” Rep. Darrell Issa wrote in a press release following the 399-25 vote.

“Erosion has eaten away at many of the beaches along our coast, which can hamper our local beach economies and present significant safety risks to residents and the community,” he added. “I’m pleased to move this local project priority forward.”

Once the project gets underway — probably not until at least 2019 — it will create 35 acres of new beach area over five decades.

The sand replacement is expected to prevent bluff-top homes from falling into the ocean, improve recreational opportunities, decrease the need for sea walls and increase safety by reducing the threat of bluff failures caused by wave action.

Encinitas is slated for an initial placement volume of 340,000 cubic yards of sand for an added average beach width of 50 feet. Solana Beach will receive 700,000 cubic yards to create an average beach width of 150 feet.

Encinitas will be replenished every five years with 220,000 cubic yards of sand. Solana Beach will receive 290,000 cubic yards every 10 years.

Because the versions passed by the Senate and House aren’t identical, a conference committee will convene in November to “iron out the minute differences,” an Issa spokesman said.

The final bill will go back to Congress and, if passed, be forwarded to the president and signed into law, perhaps in December.

“When this happens, the Solana Beach-Encinitas project will be officially ‘authorized,’” Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade said. “Given the amount of time and energy the city has dedicated to this project, this will be a momentous occasion.”

The total 50-year cost, which includes monitoring and mitigation, is estimated to be $100.1 million in Encinitas and $64.7 million in Solana Beach, with average annual costs of $2.1 million and $1.6 million, respectively.

About $87 million is slated to come from the federal government.

Authorization doesn’t guarantee federal funding, but it is “absolutely critical” as it makes the project eligible to receive funds from the Army Corps of Engineers budget, Wade said.

The next step is obtaining Army Corps funding for preconstruction, engineering and design.

“Congress is expected to adopt a budget for all government agencies before the end of the year,” Wade said.

The Army Corps will be required to produce a work plan indicating how it intends to spend appropriated funds.

Wade said the cities will be working closely with local representatives and the congressional delegation to ensure Army Corps headquarters and administration officials allocate funding in the work plan to begin the preconstruction, engineering and design phase of the project, which is expected to take up to two years to complete.

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