ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials recently accepted $225,000 in additional grant funding from the state for a sand-replenishment program that will create 35 acres of new beach area during the next 50 years.
But officials and one resident raised questions about the placement of sand in the project, and whether it would be effective in those locations.
The City Council’s March 23 vote follows a vote in October to certify the environmental impact report and approve the long-awaited Army Corps of Engineers project, which is aimed at reducing coastal storm damage to more than eight miles of beach beginning at the mouth of Batiquitos Lagoon in Encinitas and early the entire 1.7-mile Solana Beach coastline.
Both Encinitas and Solana Beach’s city councils voted to certify the reports and proceed with the project.
Originally, the state Department of Boating and Waterways pledged $225,000 for pre-construction, engineering and design activities for the project, which include engineering specifications and design, monitoring and mitigation plans.
The March 23 vote essentially doubled the state’s financial commitment.
Pre-construction costs are expected to total $3 million, with the federal government absorbing 65 percent of the costs.
Encinitas and Solana Beach are expected to contribute $50,000 in staff time.
Dennis Lees, a local marine biologist who criticized the project in October, again voiced concern about it at the City Council meeting, and urged the council to use the funds toward what he called “real solutions.”
“As far as I am concerned, we are wasting money by looking at the PED for a program that is pretty useless in any event,” Lees said. “Shoreline protection is a pretty futile activity.”
Lees questioned why the project omitted certain beaches such as Leucadia State Beach — better known as Beacon’s Beach — which has a long history of bluff failures.
“These funds should be used for real solutions to problem areas that are a problem for the city,” he said.
City staff indicated that changing the project to have sand placed at Beacon’s Beach would likely mean the entire project would have to go through the approval process again.
Katherine Weldon, the city’s shoreline preservation manager, said Beacon’s Beach could receive sand from Batiquitos Lagoon, which will likely be dredged this fall or from Interstate 5 construction this year.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, who previously expressed concerns with the project, reiterated her concerns and asked staff whether sand could be moved to Beacon’s, but ultimately said that the vote was not a referendum on the project.
“This agenda item is not a ‘should we have this project’ vote,” Shaffer said. ”We are not going to change course at this point.”
The council had to approve the contract amendment before April 11, the deadline to receive the additional funding.
The entire project is expected to cost $164.9 million, $87 million of which will be funded by the Army Corps of Engineers.