As coastal cities grapple with eroding shorelines and loss of beach amenities that also threaten blufftop homes, Assemblymember Laurie Davies has introduced a new bill that would require the Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) to study shoreline erosion control and the effectiveness of programs aimed at protecting public beaches.
If enacted, Assembly Bill 966 would initiate the study that intends to include details on existing programs’ restoration, nourishment and enhancement activities, the programs’ effectiveness and “evaluate the need for continued shoreline erosion and public beach restoration projects.”
The last time such a study occurred was in 2002, Davies explained. In 1999, the State of California gave DBW the power to study the effectiveness of public beach restoration programs through Assembly Bill 64, Davies said.
“The goal of this program was assisting local agencies in the planning and construction of cost-effective erosion control projects with local and federal agencies,” Davies said.
Realizing that there have been no further studies of the effectiveness of DBW shoreline erosion control programs, Davies argued that such a bill was long overdue.
AB 966 amends the Assembly’s current Harbors and Navigation code to include a requirement that Boating and Waterways work with the State Coastal Conservancy to prepare a report on “shoreline erosion control and public beach restoration programs.”
Additionally, the bill would require the report to “discuss ways to increase natural sediment supply in order to decrease the need to nourish the state’s beaches, identify critically eroded shorelines and analyze where existing structures may be removed or modified.”
The bill defines a critically eroded shoreline to mean “a segment of the shoreline where natural environmental processes or human activity have caused or contributed to erosion and recession of the beach or dune system to such a degree that upland development, recreational interests, wildlife habitat or important cultural resources are threatened or lost.”
“So, as we have seen in recent years, and unfortunately recent days in San Clemente, the state needs to thoroughly understand how effective it is when it comes to coastal erosion and resources we have in place because we really have got to prevent more beach loss,” Davies said.
“It’s amazing how much we’ve lost, and the economic downfall to these cities is going to be huge,” Davies continued.
Davies noted that if the state can better use its existing programs to understand California’s coastal erosion, “scientists and local stakeholders can definitely better understand the impact of climate change on coastal environments and work with the state and federal leaders to mitigate these impacts.”
By allowing DBW to study California’s beaches, Davies emphasized that the report will help to show which beaches most critically need the state’s attention.
“If you’ve got someone having a heart attack or you’ve got somebody with a cut on their knee, where do you go first? You make sure you take care of those that are in need the most,” Davies said. “And that would be the beaches that have the most erosion and are creating economic dysfunction.”
Under the proposed legislation, the report would evaluate local beaches to see if they would be considered “critically eroded shorelines.”
Davies noted that in some local beaches, amenities have disappeared in the face of coastal erosion.
“If you looked at the basketball courts and volleyball courts and picnic areas, they’re gone now,” Davies said, referring to beaches in Dana Point and San Clemente. “So, I think that when they do these studies, they’re going to be able to find out that yes, I think that our beaches are probably some of the most serious beaches in threat.”
As local shorelines recede and amenities disappear and the nearby railroad tracks are threatened, Davies added that hotels, restaurants and retail in coastal areas may suffer from the loss of tourism dollars.
The proposed legislation is crucial now, Davies added, as the state has seen homes atop coastal bluffs threatened by coastal erosion.
“I think this is something that probably should have been done 10 years ago, and if you even look at this, the last time we had a report was 2002,” Davies said. “I feel that we are really behind on what we should have been doing a while ago.”
“So instead of stopping the bleeding, we are now in emergency mode where we’ve got to do something or we’re not going to be able to get our beaches back,” Davies continued. “So, we have to make sure that we’re not beyond that point.”
The proposed legislation is scheduled to go before the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on April 18.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get it through and move it to the floor,” Davies said.
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