The San Clemente City Council directed city staff to speak with both the City of Oceanside and the California Coastal Commission about sand retention efforts, and appointed Councilmembers Victor Cabral and Mark Enmeier to a related subcommittee on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
The decision came as the council was set to discuss an application to the Coastal Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to authorize the use of a ship to dredge beach-quality seabed, found past where waves break, onto San Clemente beaches.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Knoblock agendized the application as he wanted to address the miles of coastline other than the city’s main beach that wouldn’t be touched by the recently approved San Clemente shoreline protection project.
He said that if Coastal Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers permitted the dredging, he foresaw numerous other Southern California cities doing the same thing along their shores.
“Part of my thinking on this would be that if this goes forward and if we have the courage, in my opinion, to request the Coastal Commission grant a permit like this, that we simultaneously ask the city mayors from San Diego to Imperial Beach to join with us in this application,” Knoblock said.
Such a collaboration would allow for both cost-sharing and other cities to “reap the benefits” of the project, according to Knoblock. He added that he was aware of the analysis in multiple disciplines needed to go forward but said it was never a bad time to propose the idea.
The Sand Replenishment Project looks to place approximately 250,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach from Linda Lane to T-Street, about every six years, to create a new beach area measuring 3,700 feet long and 50 feet wide.
City staff determined the project would need to be reviewed by entities including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to the agenda report.
Enmeier said going through with the application would be hasty without receiving the results of the ongoing Nature Based Coastal Resiliency Feasibility study, which Mayor Chris Duncan said would be distributed later in 2023.
Duncan also agreed with Knoblock about the urgency of protecting San Clemente beaches.
“I do think we need to prioritize the feasibility study, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work on sand replenishment now,” he said.
He didn’t align with the Knoblock on the specific nature of the application but said he would consider a motion to direct staff to consult with city officials from Oceanside regarding a partnership for a dredging project.
Knoblock clarified that his main goal was to use a nonspecific method to capture sand and bring it onto beaches.
“I have no problem with additional analysis and additional study, but my concern is we’ve been studying this to death,” said Knoblock, adding that he wanted to see action.
Citing Oceanside’s progress and communication with the Coastal Commission, Duncan said the council could provide direction for staff to learn from Oceanside in developing language that would avoid the commission’s full permitting process.
The Oceanside City Council approved a $2.6 million appropriation to pay a consultant to determine the best solution to retain sand at the city’s own beaches on Jan. 25.
Councilmember Gene James expressed his doubts about the rainbow dredging, referring to the words of Suzie Whitelaw, a member of the local group Save Our Beaches SC, who spoke to the item on Tuesday.
“I looked into the ‘rainbowing,’—and again, Suzie, you’re spot on—it really doesn’t get onto the beach, I’m not too sure what it does once it gets close to the beach,” James said.
He cautioned that the city couldn’t be certain that sand would even be available past the surf zone, and they shouldn’t attempt to do the project until study results come back.
James echoed his colleagues’ sentiments that action needed to be taken but wouldn’t cosign any efforts to undertake rainbow dredging. He added that everyone appeared to agree that a subcommittee should be formed to work with Save Our Beaches SC and other entities.
“If we had done that 10 years ago, 15 years ago, we wouldn’t have the problems we have at Cyprus Shores right now,” said James.
Discussing past mistakes wouldn’t be helpful, James acknowledged, but at least those memories can show the city what not to do going forward.
Duncan proposed a motion that would include instructing staff to “forge an alliance” with Oceanside’s sand replenishment and retention efforts, to engage with the Coastal Commission to determine projects worthy of its approval, and to form a subcommittee.
In relation to the subcommittee, James also mentioned that the California State Assembly and State Senate will form a joint committee focused on coastal erosion, according to a recent conversation between him and Assemblymember Laurie Davies.
Duncan piggybacked on that information to remind the public that San Clemente would rely on state funding and grants to make any tangible progress.
“They’re not going to pay for it unless we have a good plan to pitch to them,” Duncan said.
Knoblock affirmed his stance that rainbow dredging would be effective, and that sand would be present for the city to use. He also expressed support for a subcommittee but didn’t want the group to take an “ungodly” amount of time to come back with analysis results.
Duncan responded that the additional parts of the motion were “why we’re giving also direction to staff, separate from the subcommittee, to do certain things.”
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