California State Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) speaks with Encinitas resident Charles McDermott on Oct. 18 at the Grandview Beach entrance. Both, along with Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) are concerned about recent bluff collapses in the region. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Local leaders racing to address bluff concerns

REGION — Active bluffs along the state’s coastline, especially in San Diego County, are a growing concern for residents and elected officials.

Congressman Mike Levin (D-CA), California State Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) all recently spoke about the bluff collapses this year. All acknowledge more must be done, and quickly, especially after a tragic collapse at Grandview Beach on Aug. 2, which killed three women, all Encinitas residents.

Other incidents took place in Solana Beach on April 21 and Del Mar on Aug. 22. The bluff collapses have put residents on edge, especially those who use the Coaster train.

Still, though, the fight appears to be between those who want a “managed retreat” and others who want to install warning systems, sand replenishment and public safety concerns. Boerner Horvath wants to incorporate systems and replenishment

“Armoring California’s coast to protect against sea-level rise is the equivalent of saying let’s stop the tectonic plates from moving so we don’t have earthquakes,” Boerner Horvath said. “It’s not something we can just stop.”

She said she’s been worried about the issue since her days as an Encinitas councilwoman, noting Beacon’s Beach is also an active landside area along with Grandview.

Boerner Horvath said she’s been “grappling” with the issue since the seawalls are prohibited by the Coastal Act. One challenge, she said, is the bureaucratic and legal minefields lay ahead.

Two concepts Boerner Horvath are championing, as part of working with scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, are bluff monitoring and early warning systems. She said it is critical to identify weak spots in the bluffs to avoid tragedies like the one on Aug. 2.

Complicating matters, Bates said, is the California Coastal Commission, which wants a managed retreat. On Oct. 18, the commission railed against the city of Del Mar as the city has rejected a managed retreat solution, according to a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Bates said erosion is another tricky concern, but the solutions must find a balance to ensure access and protect infrastructure.

She also met with Encinitas resident Charles McDermott on Oct. 18 at Grandview to hear the concerns from the resident, who lives on the bluff along Neptune Avenue.

In addition to sea rise, rainy winters add to the challenge and may accelerate of collapses, the legislators said.

Bates also said the private property issue is another obstacle, noting Del Mar’s resistance to managed retreat.

“You remove of significant number of expensive properties,” Bates said. “The collective amount is in the billions and who’s going to pay for that because the Coastal Commission doesn’t have responsibility for the funding of that. It would fall on the state.”

McDermott said managed retreat is not the solution, pointing to erosion reports. He said replenishment is a start and property owners could afford to assist with those efforts.

McDermott said it he does not have faith in the city of Encinitas as the council is aligned with the Surfrider Foundation in supporting the managed retreat. Bates said some permits to act on stabilization have “languished” for years in front of the Coastal Commission.

“That is not right,” she added. “We got to get a solution because it’s not going away. How do we protect lives and property? We got to make it work.”

Levin said he, along with colleague from both sides of the aisle, is working to find funding and is making “progress” with the Army Corps of Engineers. He said one goal is to secure $905,000 in funding, while several cities have secured funding for project planning, engineering and design for the Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Reduction Project.

“I’m very hopeful that we’ll have a positive outcome in the appropriations process that will finally bring these necessary resources to bear and work on getting this project done,” Levin said.

Editors Note: An original version of this story, after first reference, incorrectly referred to Tasha Boerner Horvath last name as Horvath. The Coast News regrets the error.

2 comments

Hines October 25, 2019 at 8:27 pm

Maybe these folks on Neptune and other ocean front communities need to support President Trump. He is slowly but surely getting a border barrier built despite obstacles, which is the only solution you folks adjacent to the ocean will want ultimately. Right?

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Jay Jzz November 9, 2019 at 8:52 am

Managed retreat .. LOL …. the sea level is about where it always has been since I arrived here 45 years ago. We have always had bluff issues. We need to build natural looking sea walls and sand replenishment, this has always worked, maybe even off shore structures that may slow down sand retreat back into the deeper ocean. We have created all these unelected boards and commissions like the Coastal Commission, SANDAG and many others that acquire huge amounts of power that they foist on us mere citizens. I am not a fan of top to down government but our coastline is of national importance, we have huge military establishments here and a commercial port. Maybe the feds need to step in and demand fortification of our shores. It is so sad that people are constantly at risk and die because of foolish policy made by politicians.

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