A new bill has been approved by the Biden administration to fund manually implanted sand along the Orange County shoreline in an effort to prevent further erosion.
ORANGE COUNTY— On March 15, President Joe Biden signed a budget bill including millions of dollars to replenish sand along two large sections of the Orange County coastline.
Replacing the lost sand will benefit more than just preserving space for sun tanning and recreation. Officials say it assures a solid and essential buffer to keep the ocean from wrecking and flooding streets, homes, and other infrastructure. While watching the shoreline erode over the years, residents have long awaited the approval of this project.
The Surfside-Sunset and Newport Beach Replenishment Project will receive $15.5 million. In comparison, the San Clemente Shoreline Protection plan has allotted $9.3 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is curating both projects.
Several locations along Orange County’s coast aren’t naturally wide. Instead, the sandy beaches are a result of projects from the 1940s-60s when the harbors, flood control channels, and ports were built. Once the naturally occurring replenishment system stopped, the government began manually replacing the sand, extending to the shorelines, creating an amenity now relied on to lure in tens of millions of visitors and billions in revenue annually.
The sand supply has eroded and dwindled more recently, and the sea has crept closer to buildings, roads, and railways. As a result, the ocean has more of an opportunity to batter beaches and cause flooding and damage. Previous schedules for replenishing the sand were delayed for years due to a lack of funding.
“Every 7-10 years the Federal Government provides funding to replenish sand along our beaches,” said Huntington Beach’s Public Affairs Manager, Jennifer Carey in an email from March 18. “Due to the installation of the Seal Beach Naval base, sand has not had a way to naturally replenish our beaches. As a part of this project, approximately 1M cubic yards of sand will be deposited in Surfside (a small community in Huntington Beach on the Seal Beach border) for the current to bring the sand down along the coast through the Peninsula in Newport Beach. The project is funded primarily through the Federal Government. The state pays 30 percent and local cities cover the remaining 3 percent.”
This project will add 1.75 million cubic yards of sand in the Surfside-Sunset area at the northern end of Orange County’s 42-mile-long coastline. That sand will then be pushed by ocean currents and waves along the next 12 miles, seeding Huntington Beach and Newport Beach beaches.
Since the 1960s, the seeding of new sand was done every five to seven years. But in 2000, the Army Corps of Engineers said future phases were no longer in the budget.
As the impacts of erosion begin to reveal themselves, the sea is starting to creep closer to homes, businesses, and roads, making them more vulnerable to storm and tide damage.
The seaside city on the south end of the county is getting $9.3 million to help with the sand replenishment solution, which has been in the works for almost 20 years.
An essential element of the San Clemente Shoreline Project is to protect the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor tracks that run close to the shoreline in that section. The San Clemente portion of project extends from Mariposa Bridge to T-Street Beach, centered on the San Clements Pier. The project is 50 feet wide and 3,412 long. Feasibility studies and environmental review for the project began in 2001.
“The project is designed to protect this asset while also protecting roads, buildings, and other infrastructure and maintaining recreational use of San Clemente’s coastline,” said representative Mike Levin in a press release about the funding.
An estimated 2-3 million people visit San Clemente to throw down towels, surf and play in the ocean. Those tourists bring along money to spend, bolstering the economic health of the small seaside town.
The replenishment project will add about 251,000 cubic yards of sand to city beaches from Linda Lane to T-street, about 3,400 feet. The sand stockpile will be dredged from Oceanside, where a barge will haul it to San Clemente.
San Clemente was also just awarded a $570,000 grant by the California Coastal Commission to begin regular monitoring of its shoreline, “which will track sea-level and sand movement,” Community Development Director Cecilia Gallardo-Daly said. “This data will help the city prepare a site-specific sand replenishment and retention feasibility program.”
City officials are looking beyond the traditional dumping of sand and focusing on a longer-term solution, such as engineering “living shorelines” that use native plants to create a “back beach” where sand can accumulate or cobblestones to anchor the sand.
While the federal funding has finally been secured, other areas of the city’s shore are not included in the project, including North Beach, where the sand disappears when tides are high.
There, the city chained off the stairs leading to the beach because so much sand has eroded away, leaving a significant drop from the last step.