Jon Edelbrock | Del Mar Lifeguard Sergeant
Del Mar Sandpipers in a mad round of Surf Tag.
Photo Virginia Lawrence
The proposed SANDAG Regional Sand would add sand from three offshore cells to nine beach sites to help cure a 25 Million Cubic Yard (MCY) deficit of sand along County beaches. While the project boasts of economic benefits of increased tourism, access, and protection of public property and infrastructure, questions remain whether the net effect will be positive or negative for Del Mar’s beach.
Del Mar chose not to participate as a site for sand replenishment in this state funded project. While City Council currently is “generally supportive of efforts to replenish sand along the San Diego coastline,” there are still “numerous concerns” expressed by staff, Council, and residents.
One of the three dredge sites chosen by SANDAG is 124 acres just 2400 feet from the North Beach shoreline, removing “up to 1.9 million cubic yards” of sand. This is almost three times the amount of sand that was dredged from off the Del Mar shore in a similar project in 2001. The dredge site is half the distance from shore and the trough created will be twice as deep as in 2001. The concern is that this may be a significant overuse of this resource with many unknowns. Planners said limited time and dollars prevented them from exploring potentially better sources of sand north of Oceanside.
While SANDAG staff believes the project will not negatively affect local sand levels primarily because the dredge site is beyond the “scope of closure” at 34-49’ feet deep (area beyond 29’ of depth which isn’t actively involved in sand erosion/deposition along the beach), environmental questions still remain. Mayor Mosier expressed concern over the confounding of data related to the San Dieguito Lagoon and River Restoration project. With the change in offshore depth, the concern is that there will be a bathymetric change in the Rivermouth area, possibly creating larger waves and different angles, thereby affecting the normal erosion and deposition process.
While North County sandy beaches are known tourist destinations with sand being the hot commodity, local concerns have been voiced over both potential visual and noise impacts during the construction phase. The current working construction timeline could last up to six months with the bulk of the work being done in the summer of 2012. SANDAG officials have assured that there will be no noise concerns, however the potential of a large barge and accessory vessels filling the horizon looms large; especially given the disproportionate time being spent working this site. Additional concerns are water clarity, potential algae blooms, and water quality.
The city and public comment period ended March 14th. The final project EIR is expected late May 2011, followed by the permit process ending by September. Construction is scheduled to begin by April 2012.
Research has shown that county beaches are clearly sand-starved and the rate of erosion exceeds seasonal depositing. While the benefits of the project are potentially significant for participating communities, questions of methodology and negative impacts remain to be answered. Equitable dredging from current identified sources, further exploration of alternate sites, and viable mitigation in the event of engineering miscalculations would be a great start to garner additional support.