‘Living dunes’ project in Cardiff gets $2.2 million grant

ENCINITAS — Encinitas and California State Park’s plans for a network of sand dunes to protect Coast Highway 101 in South Cardiff received a boost by way of a $2.2 million grant from the California Coastal Conservancy.

The state agency, which awards grants and supports projects that protect coastal resources, awarded the grant in June, but the City Council formally accepted it at the Aug. 30 City Council meeting.

Encinitas will receive about $2.07 million of the $2.2 million grant. The San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy will receive $87,229 for dune planting and biological monitoring and UCLA will receive $83,289 for physical monitoring of the dunes.

The city is proposing to erect a series of sand dunes covered with native plants stretching from just south of Chart House restaurant and the rest of Cardiff’s “restaurant row” for a half mile to the entrance of Seaside Reef State beach west of the highway.

The project’s goal is to protect a low-lying section of Coast Highway 101, which is prone to flooding and erosion during storm events that thrust the tide onto the highway. The city has had to close the stretch of road — which supports more than 20,000 motorists daily — more than 50 times in recent years.

But unlike most protective barriers such as seawalls and large boulders known as rip-rap, which accelerate sand depletion along the shores they protect, these “living dunes” are a considered to be a more environmentally favorable alternative. The structures will erode over time, casting sand onto the shoreline.

The Coastal Conservancy, which is throwing its support behind the project, said that a number of cities are considering similar projects if Encinitas proves successful.

“Basically this is just a really important project for my agency, one of the first of its kind, and a lot of other cities are looking towards it to see what our monitoring results look like,” said Evyan Borgnis, a project manager with The Conservancy.

The City Council unanimously approved accepting the grant.

The project is expected to receive the Coastal Commission’s approval in the fall. Pending Coastal Commission approval, officials expect to move forward with the project in January 2018 and complete it by June 2018.

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