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By C. Jayden Smith 

The San Clemente City Council voted unanimously last week to revise a grant application to the California Coastal Commission that seeks funding toward projects and programs meant to locally address sea-level rise.

The city hopes to obtain $550,000 in funding from the CCC to support implementation of its Coastal Resiliency Plan, which includes an objective to establish a shoreline monitoring program that will track the width of San Clemente’s beaches and other changes to the beach profile every fall and spring through 2025.

The council had to raise the original submission, made on Dec. 7, 2021, by $50,000 to add another grant task requested by CCC staff, which was the preparation of an amendment to the Local Coastal Program (LCP) that would incorporate the findings and recommendations related to the shoreline monitoring program.

An LCP is the planning tool used by local governments to guide development in partnership with the CCC. LCPs contain the ground rules for future development and protection of coastal resources in the state’s 76 coastal cities and counties.

According to the city, the potential grant funds used to support the shoreline monitoring program will also play an important role whenever the Army Corps of Engineers’ Sand Replenishment Project gets implemented.

“The grant would also be used to fund a feasibility study to determine what will work in San Clemente to retain sand along the coastline based on the City’s own unique conditions,” Community Development Director Cecilia Gallardo-Daly wrote in her Feb. 15 report to the council.

The protection project that’s intended to place nearly 251,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach from Linda Lane to T-Street encountered a setback last month after it was announced that the Army Corps opted not to allocate a portion of its infrastructure monies toward the endeavor this fiscal year.

Expounding on the report during the council’s meeting, Gallardo-Daly said the grant’s other priority to perform a feasibility analysis that is site-specific to the city’s coast can help “determine what will work to retain sand and add sand” to the beaches. 

Councilmember Steve Knoblock mentioned a related concern regarding the city’s ability to approve projects within the Coastal Zone—the land area of the city that is 1,000 yards inland of the Pacific Ocean—without CCC approval. 

The city will have the authority to do so once the CCC approves San Clemente’s LCP Implementation Plan that was reviewed by the Planning Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 16. The earliest timeline for CCC approval would be during the fall or winter of 2022.

“The goal is to be able to issue coastal development permits (CDPs) in the Coastal Zone when we have a certified Local Coastal Program,” Gallardo-Daly said. “There is going to be an appealable jurisdiction, and that’s basically from the ocean to the first public roadway.”

She added that the CCC has the authority to appeal projects within that area, as well as Capistrano Shores, an area of deferred certification.

Specifically, Knoblock wanted to know about the possibility of the council permitting the city to dredge sand that has moved off its own beaches back onto the shoreline.

“If we were to authorize a dredging operation to pump that sand, in a rainbow effect, back onto our beaches, would (that) require a coastal permit?” he asked. Gallardo-Daly was unsure of the answer without being able to confirm outside of the meeting.

Knoblock clarified that he wanted to be “proactive” regarding the protection of San Clemente beaches. 

With the support of Mayor Gene James and Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan, Knoblock directed staff to prepare a report, or a “White Paper,” on the city’s authority to grant permits dealing with offshore sand movement, and what the city could do to accomplish such a task if it’s found to lack that jurisdiction. 

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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