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Saving Sand
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

By the Beach Safety Center.
Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

Our beach sand that we walk on, get between our toes and shake out of our towels is here today, gone tomorrow due to many complicating elemental flows. The troubling words here are “gone tomorrow.”

Sand, one of the most sought-after commodities of the 21st century, along with water and air, comes in a variety of categories with only a few favored for beaches. This natural resource, an essential ingredient in a range of products such as cosmetics, solar panels, silicon chips, glass, on up to all those concrete structures built all over the world in recent boom years, is being swallowed up unprecedented quantities. Though the supply of sand might seem endless, it is finite. Extracting sand has grown into a $70 billion international industry not counting the active black market dealing in stolen sand.

Today, with the climate change odds, beach nourishment is a worldwide quest. On our shores, the Army Corps of Engineers has come to the aid of our national coastal cities with California receiving 435 “nourishment events” from 1927 to 2016 (second in number to Florida) at a cost of just under $400,000,000 according the the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association, collaborators.

As to our Del Mar beach’s future, while there is no simple solution, there is a plan. Excerpts from the City of Del Mar Beach Nourishment Plan include recommendations for the near term and long term. The good news is that there is available local sand for beach nourishment beyond the what the tides and currents move about during seasonal shifts. While projections are the best guesses for the number of cubic yards of sand that will be needed to retain our shore, the suggested number per year is 17,400 cubic yards, more than Del Mar is currently receiving. Depending on a swirl of variables, sand may be delivered by dredging, trucking it in and/or piping it in from offshore. Additional sand management strategies include regional coordination with perhaps all the organizations currently in place such as SANDAG, SCE, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers. Future projects could very well involve larger scale sand placements, creating sand retention structures and other techniques that may evolve in the years ahead. The question is how much beach preservation will cost and who will pay for it.



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