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The rise of the seas is often referred to as Southern California’s most popular asset as the unbeatable guilty man. However, rising seas are not the only reason the shoreline is gone.

The beaches blocked sand flow through decades of development along the coast. Historically, local shores have a hand to support the federal government, but such assistance has declined in recent years, such as sand itself.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is concerned with the major sand refilling project that has maintained the northern section of Orange County’s shorelines with sand for decades. This has provided a buffer for ocean-to-city refueling and has protected the region’s major economic driver for tourism.

“It’s harmful to our beaches to not replenish our sand. It’s just time to do it, it’s way overdue,” Newport Beach Councilwoman Diane Dixon said. “It needs federal funds.”
In recent weeks, the city councils of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach passed resolutions demonstrating their continued support for the Surfside-Sunset Beach Nourishment Initiative, one of the region’s largest sand replenishment programs. Since the 1960s, the project has been repeated every five to seven years, planting sand that is then scattered by ocean currents and waves along the 12-mile stretch from Alamitos Bay to Newport Beach.

Happened Sand Coastal Cities
Image Source: Orange County Register

However, due to a lack of federal funds, the project has been on hold since 2010. And the effects are beginning to appear, according to local authorities, as the sea gets closer to homes and businesses that may be in danger soon, if not already.

“We need our rivers to deliver sediment to the coast. If we don’t have that, we have to truck it to fill in the beaches,” said Brett Sanders, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine. Coasts aren’t just facing sea-level rise, they are facing it with shrinking beaches, he said. “It’s a double-whammy.”

Growing narrow beaches

In the 1920s, beaches along Southern California were naturally narrow, Sanders said.

“Some of the leaders realized the beaches were too small to meet the demand for tourism,” he said. “The development of harbors and ports for industry, the military and recreation all aligned with the need to grow the beaches to meet needs for the growing tourism industry.”
Dredging for the Long Beach Harbor and the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station in the 1940s helped to bring sand on surrounding beaches, allowing for an expansive, sandy coastline in the decades that followed. When the Newport Harbor and Dana Point Harbor were constructed, similar large beach sand deposits occurred.

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“Basically these projects put a lot of sand on our beaches and created this excellent environment for tourism, recreation and all the things we love about the beaches,” Sanders said.
However, why is the federal government responsible for the beaches of the region?

Happened Sand Coastal Cities
Image Source: Orange County Register

The construction of engineered flood management structures on the San Gabriel River and the Santa Ana River by the United States Army Corps of Engineers between the 1930s and the 1950s reduced sand naturally and prevented the transportation of sediment and sand along its rivers.The Rivers and Harbor Act was passed by the Congress in 1962, which called for the Army Corps of Engineers to address the impact on natural sand deposits of the constructed flood control structures.

This resulted in a first 1,5 million cubic yards of sand deposited on the surf side-sunset Beach Nutrition Project or Stage 1 in 1964. Since, at least until 2010, it has been repeated about a dozen times.

“It’s been a pretty successful project,” Sanders said. “It’s a really smart way to manage the erosion for northern Orange County. You put sediment in one spot and everyone benefits.”

In a recent article, Newport Beach staffers told their council members that the proposed Stage 13 project had been “delayed indefinitely by the federal government due to a lack of funding.” They said the reason for the project’s lack of funding is unknown, but the coastline between Anaheim Bay Harbor and Newport Harbor has suffered “noticeable and drastic deterioration.” Winter storms and high tides have eroded the sand to the point that homes in the Surfside neighborhood are endangered, they said.

Newport Beach made national news last July when Balboa Peninsula and its beach parking lots, streets and homes were flooded with up to three feet of salt water when a high tide hit during a big swell.

“This was not the result of a large winter storm and it could be a precursor of what the new normal will be without the wide, protective buffer that beach sand provides,” Newport Beach officials said in their report.

Happened Sand Coastal Cities
Image Source: Orange County Register

Sand starved

The northern coastal cities of Orange County aren’t the only ones dealing with sand. For years, Dana Point’s Capistrano Beach and San Clemente’s San Clemente Beach have been sand-deprived. Officials at Capistrano Beach are considering a “controlled retreat” after waves battered and ravaged the shore, which hasn’t been replenished in decades.

Officials in San Clemente have been working with the US Army Corps of Engineers for more than two decades to secure a large deposit of sand – enough to fill a football field 15 feet deep – for their San Clemente Shoreline Project.Last year it received more than 500,000 dollars to help move the 11-million dollar project forward with the Federal Government. The protection necessary for railway tracks running along the coast is to work in favor of San Clemente.

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The leaders of Newport Beach hope to see some surf-sunset sand project movement. Costs are now gaining ground. The federal government typically pays 67% of the bill; local authorities pay 33%, the majority of which is funded. Newport Beach already has almost $160,000, Huntington Beach has allocated almost $300,000 to the project.But that’s when five years ago the project was expected to cost $18 million. Now? – Now? Newport Beach’s officials have said that the project estimates amount to over $50 million as a result of the delays and increased sand movement.

Officials of the US Army Corps of Engineers cannot be consulted but a 220-page 2018 report from the Water Resources Institute gives an in-depth view of the eroding shoreline of California.According to the study, a number of factors have contributed to beach shrinkage.

Flood control dams were installed, as were water supply and sediment collection basins to minimize sediment runoff. To prevent erosion, cliffs and bluffs were armored. Jetties and breakwaters were constructed to secure harbors while also facilitating navigation. Rivers were channelized or even paved, and navigation channels that serve as major sediment traps were built.

As a result, in the early to late 1900s, about 40% of California beaches eroded, rising to 66 percent in the last 25 years.The average annual expansion of narrow beaches in southern California since the 1930s was about 1,3 million cubic yards, but those projects have declines in the past 20 to 30 years. The report notes that the risk of erosion amounts to billions of dollars in immovable and commercial property, road, rail, and tourism.

Image Source: The New York Times

No free beach

While refilling sand is the favorite way of protecting coasts against tough structures, such as jetties or concrete walls, it is also adversely affected. There is a high cost and regular sand must be re-nourished, the Engineers’ Army Corps report notes.

The report notes that sand needs to be mined inside before it can reach the coast, which includes approximately 50 million cubic meters of sand and gravel every year, but it is not obvious how far this material would go natural to the coastline.The state and federal governments spent $93.5 million between 1984 and 2012, putting 13,4 million cubic yards of sand on beaches in south California. Surfside Beach received 71% or 9.6 million cubic meters of this sand. On the other hand, the report quantified what a sandy beach could mean for the city’s income: The 50-% increase in beach width could generate $3.1 million in consumer surplus annually in San Clemente, one of the region’s smallest beach towns.

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One challenge is the bureaucracy in working with several parties to get these projects off the ground, said Sanders. Sanders.

“They are enormously burdensome to coastal communities to try and get these projects to move forward, especially in California because we have one of the most advanced coastal oversight systems,” he said. “But they all need different things. It’s really hard to get stuff done.”

He estimates that billions of dollars have been spent on beach stabilization around the world. Beaches are repaired in some areas after storms, such as New Jersey, only to be struck hard again the next year.

“There are these projects happening year after year at great expense to the public, where maybe it’s best to retreat,” he said.

The solution is to see which investments will benefit. Sanders believes that it would be a good money to maintain the beach for Surfside-Sunset refill.
“We have several cities along the coast that all have an increased quality of life, recreational values and those beaches are used by people across Southern California,” he said. “It’s not just beaches used by the elite, they are used by people throughout California.”
The sand also acts as a barrier between infrastructure and the environment. If the beaches are gone, the Pacific Coast Highway, houses and residences, as well as gas and sewage lines installed in the earth, will be gone as well. Sanders enlisted the aid of a group of students to produce modeling that depicts the rate of erosion along different sections of the OC coast, as well as drone footage that depicts how dramatically the coastline is changing. Sanders just hosted a virtual talk about the changing coast last week.

The bottom line determines what will happen in the future: how much it costs to keep beaches sandy and how much coastal cities will lose if beaches continue to shrink.

“We’ve had these big coastal construction projects that have allowed us to have these big beaches, but they require investment in sand replenishment,” Sanders said. “In Southern California, there’s so many benefits to so many people, we should be looking at ways to sustain them and not just walk away.”

Source: Orange County Register

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