Officials worry sand project is bringing rocks to San Clemente’s beach – Orange County Register

Laylan Connelly


San Clemente’s sand replenishment project is off to a rocky start.

A dredging operation to widen the city’s beach has officials concerned that the material being brought from offshore Oceanside has too much cobble – or rocky material – and not enough of the fluffy sand the beach town expected.

The $14 million project resumed on Monday, Jan. 8, following a two-week pause in the operation due to weather and maintenance issues with the dredger. But as the project continues, city officials say they are keeping a watchful eye on what is being piped onto the beach.

San Clemente City Manager Andy Hall sent a letter on Dec. 26 to Manson Construction Company requesting the dredging operation “immediately stop pumping cobble onto the beach,” urging the company to review maps, sample data and analyses that indicate the geographic location and depths “where the beach-quality sand is located.”

Councilman Chris Duncan said geological studies show there is sand at the dredge site off Oceanside, but there appears to be a layer of cobble and gravel on top – and that’s what the dredger is bringing to the beach.

The city has been in contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is spearheading the project, and they are receptive to the city’s concerns, Duncan said.

Doland Cheung, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said it is typical at the start of a dredging project to see some amount of cobble and stone that is bigger than “beach compatible” material. That may have not been communicated to the city prior to the project start, he acknowledged.

The site was analyzed by Army Corps engineers around 2010 and pre-construction surveys conducted more recently showed the elevation at the site has not changed, therefore there should be no major changes in the material composition, Cheung said.

There is currently no other site identified closer to San Clemente that would have better material and this was the only location authorized, he said.

“Our hope is that initially, after the first few days of dredging,” he said, “they will get through to the sand that is under the top layer cobble.”

The material on Monday shooting out of the pipe looked to be a mix of coarse gravel, sand and shell fragments, he said, indicating the dredger is getting past the larger stones of cobble. In a few more cycles, the dredger will hopefully break past the stone barrier to get to the sand, he said.

The project will finish closer to the end of the month, rather than the initially expected Jan. 15, due to weather delays and pump failures.

Once the project is competed in San Clemente, the dredger heads to Solana Beach and Encinitas for the next Army Corps of Engineers’ sand replenishment.

The Army Corps could complete this project and look into a new borrow site for the next phase, Cheung said, but there’s no way of knowing what the quality of material would be, unless it is an already approved borrow site.  Finding a new place to dredge could impact the timeline for the next phase and would require new state environmental reviews, he said.

“Our restart looks promising, we’ll keep monitoring to see what comes up in the next day or two and what material we might find and make a determination of whether we can hit sand or consult with the city to find out what’s the next best option,” he said.

The long-awaited San Clemente Shoreline Sand Replenishment Project kicked off on Dec. 18, a project nearly 25 years in the making, requiring decades worth of planning, environmental studies, approvals and funding delays.

The project is the first phase of a 50-year commitment by the Army Corps of Engineers to repeat the replenishment every five years.

It’s not a perfect science, Duncan acknowledges, but the city wants to ensure it gets the 251,000 cubic yards of sand it was promised – not a portion that is rock instead.

“We will have to monitor it and see how it goes,” he said. “There’s still a possibility that if they can’t locate the sand, then we ultimately may delay the project until we can be sure they are able to locate and bring sand.”

Safety netting and workers kept passersby away from the construction area on the south side of the pier this week. As the project finishes in one area, the pipe will be moved to a new area in the project site that spans between Linda Lane and T-Street, eventually adding a 50-foot-wide stretch of new beach to the north and south side of the pier.

Sediment is pumped onto the beach in San Clemente on Jan. 8, 2024. The city wants to ensure the material is sand, not rocks, for the 251,000 cubic yard project. (Photo by Laylan Connelly/SCNG)

The sand piped in is meant to restore the natural nourishment missing after human development, such as the creation of harbors and concrete channels, and is a way to prepare for future impacts of climate change, providing a sand buffer between the sea and infrastructure, as well as adding space for recreation.

The city has waited so many years for the project to get underway, so its leaders want to make sure it is done right, Duncan said.

“They will see how it goes this week, see if they locate sand. This is a hard thing, they are going way down into they ocean. We want to make sure they get sand and the deposits of the rocky cobble end,” he added. “We don’t mind pausing to get it right.”

Stephanie Stegelvik, of San Clemente, and friend  Amiee Dixson, of Laguna Beach, watched curiously as the pipe that stretches from the dredger up onto the shore spewed a grayish material onto the beach Monday, with heavy machinery moving the sediment around and building a berm.

“It looks a little dark, it doesn’t look like sand,” Stegelvik said. “Do you hear that? That’s rock coming out. We have enough rocks. I’m pretty sure that’s not sand.”

Dixson was also concerned, saying, “When you pick up a handful of wet sand, it doesn’t look that dark.”

San Clemente resident Brent Davis has been following the project, noting the sand replenishment is important to the city.

“It’s really cool. The process of how they are able to bring the local, natural material onto our beach that isn’t going to disrupt our natural ecology – I think it’s wonderful they are doing it right here,” he said.

That is, if it is sand they are bringing in, not rocks.

“I personally don’t like a rocky beach to visit. If you’re talking just citizen enjoyment, nobody is going to come to a rocky beach,” he said.

Longtime resident Barry Trauger remembers a much wider beach when he first moved to San Clemente from the East Coast in the mid-1980s – and when much of the sand was washed away in the 1993 El Nino storms.

“I think it’s a good thing, it’s going to have to be replenished,” he said. “The ocean always wins.”

He urged people to give the material time to dry out and for nature to spread it around.

“I think in a couple months, we’ll really see what’s going on,” he said. “Give it some time, currents and tides will move it around.”

Laylan Connelly Local News,beaches,community,Top Stories OCR

2024-01-09 23:46:28 , San Clemente News: The Orange County Register

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