On Wednesday night the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas both voted unanimously to send a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) supporting the National Economic Development (NED) plan for the 50-year Coastal Storm Damage Protection Project. The ACOE hearings ran late in to the night last week: we escaped from Solana Beach around 8:30, while were in Encinitas until after 10 pm, and Surfrider had a good turn out at both locations. Unfortunately, both cites decided to move forward and recommend the NED alternative (the most aggressive option) in order to keep the ACOE funding opportunity open. The cities were under pressure from the ACOE to accept the NED without amendment, as the ACOE claimed it was either the NED or the funding opportunity for any volume of sand would completely disappear. The NED is not an acceptable plan to the Surfrider community, as the amount of sand they are proposing to place on the beaches will result in the destruction of valuable reef break resources into closeout beach breaks. We requested that the city councils ask for a “locally preferred alternative” to the agressive NED, where significantly less sand would be placed on the beach. Less sand could still serve many purposes – increased towel space on the beach, protection of private property, and preservation of reef breaks and the delicate reef ecosystem.
At the city council meetings, the ACOE claimed that they were willing to be ‘flexible’ about a number of things including the volume of sand, within 20% of the proposed volume. Only time will tell if that truly is the case. Despite this setback, we still have more opportunities to engage with the communities to alter the plan as the process moves forward. Surfrider laid some good ground work to come back next time with a few discrete asks in order to make the project tolerable. Ideally, there would be a reduced amount of sand that does not trigger “likely” impacts to reefs. Additionally, surf monitoring and adaptive management with a better definition and some teeth would be added to the project.