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Runaway Beach
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera

‘Where’s the Beach?’ has been the caption of recent Sandpiper photos that chronicled the King Tides storming into town this winter and taking residency just beyond the sea walls. The unwanted runaway beach sand, some of it sheltered in place on Ocean Avenue, left bare cobble stones to anchor the once-sandy playground.

These chaotic oceanic events in November, December, January and February stacked the averages. Even with the lighter-than-expected El Niño precipitation, the annual chance for storm damage and flooding in 2016 clocked in at a new high of 10%. By 2050 to 2070 experts estimate the chance of this being an annual occurrence will be 100%. All the while sea-level rise along California has been static.

The Sea-Level Stakeholders Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), in full attendance but with no community audience at its April 14th meeting, listened to its consultant deliver the eye-popping draft report and maps of the future sea-level rise vulnerability and risk assessment for our beach, bluffs, lagoons and river. Even though the data await the U.S Geological Coastal Storm Modelling System’s final product report due in the summer/fall 2016, the extensive historic sources, surveys and analytics add enough certainty to declare the likelihood of how much of our beach will disappear.

STAC is keeping pace with the task deadlines of its California Ocean Protection Council grant and thus the rush to prepare the risk assessment by the end of April. The Committee is confronting the pragmatic responsibility of communicating to the public these technical data-driven scenarios; ones sobering and loaded with complexities - beach erosion occurring as soon as 2030 to 2040 and zero beach by 2060 with mean high tides lapping at the sea walls. The conditions accounting for sea-level rise and the rates of erosion were spelled out by Nick Garrity, Environmental Services Associates, relying upon historic patterns and the continuing and unabated greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Garrity’s analysis went beyond the beach to the San Dieguito River which always waits its turn to express the tidal action. Some may remember the February 21,1980 river flood event (and snakes on the beach), which by 2050 will have an 8% to 25% chance of occurring annually. And by the year 2100 a 20% to 50% greater chance.

STAC is inviting the community to a public forum on Thursday May 5th, 4 to 6 pm at the City Hall Annex for the opportunity of discussing the data and hazard maps. Gaining a clear understanding is our obligation because we all need to develop and implement the strategies for the coming changes. There will be much less sand to put our heads into.



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