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SANDAG to replenish sand at area beaches

ENCINITAS — In an effort to shore up the county’s eroding beaches, the San Diego Association of Governments put forth the first comprehensive sand replenishment plan in more than a decade. Two dozen city and agency officials joined a few residents at a meeting on Feb. 2 to review the draft environmental report.
A similar project, which placed approximately 2 million cubic yards of sand on 12 of the region’s beaches, was completed in 2001. The current project, known as the Regional Beach Sand Project II, would dredge beach-quality sand from three offshore borrow sites and place the material at receiver sites from Oceanside in the north to Imperial Beach in the south.
The three borrow sites are located offshore along the coast from Encinitas to Mission Beach.
Four Encinitas beaches are slated as receiver sites according to SANDAG Senior Regional Planner Selby Tucker. Under the two project options now being considered by the regional agency, Leucadia would get 117,000 cubic yards, Moonlight Beach would receive 105,000 cubic yards and Cardiff would gain 101,000 cubic yards of sand.
Agency officials are on schedule to have the necessary permits in place by the end of the year in order to proceed with the project beginning in the spring of 2012. Cindy Kinkade, the project’s environmental consultant, projected the construction would take between six to nine months. The goal is a completion date of Oct. 1, 2012.“We don’t want to be moving sand in the summer,” Tucker said.
The project’s estimated $22 million cost is funded primarily by grants from the state Department of Boating and Waterways. However, cities that benefit from the project are required to pay the remaining 15 percent of the cost according to Tucker.
The lengthy analyses of the project includes studies on the impacts associated with geology and soils, coastal wetlands, water resources, biological resources, cultural resources, land and water use, aesthetics, socioeconomics, public health and safety, structures and public utilities, traffic, air quality, noise and climate change. “Fortunately, the EIR/EA concludes that the project will not have any significant impacts,” California Coastal Coalition Executive Director Steve Aceti said.
Local resident Gary Murphy expressed concern about the impacts of an overdose of sand on surfing conditions. He urged agency officials to consider coordinating any other sand replenishment efforts to avoid such a scenario.
According to the draft document the region’s beaches and sea cliffs “have been steadily eroding for several decades” and insufficient volumes of sand are causing “coastal erosion, narrowing of beaches, damage to infrastructure, habitat degradation, threats to public safety and reduced recreational and economic benefits.” The document cites several studies that indicate that the region needs roughly 30 million cubic yards of sand to adequately address its shoreline erosion problems.
Some beachgoers remained skeptical of the plans to replenish sand. “It’s like addressing the symptoms of the disease but never getting to the cause,” said Jared Billings, a Leucadia resident surfing at Grandview. “We are going to continue to experience erosion, it’s a natural process,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve built up so much along the shoreline that it’s speeding it up. We’ll never catch up to mother nature.”
In accordance with the state’s environmental quality laws, public comment will be accepted until March 14. Public comments can be e-mailed to beachsand@sandag.org or call (619) 699-0640.