But Gonzalez said the San Diego Association of Governments’ 2001 program was well done and well monitored. A good example of the program’s success is George’s Beach in Cardiff, not far from the Chart House Restaurant.
“Through the 1970s and 1980s, that was a good surf beach with a lot of recreation,” said Gonzalez. “By the end of the 1990s, it was denuded, with all cobble[stones]. There was so little protection of Highway 101 that the City of Encinitas proposed a 500- to 600-foot seawall. Sandag replenished the heck out of that beach, and we enjoyed a few years of stability and the waves. It lasted four to five years, and that beach is still better than it was in 1997.”
The bottom line, said Gonzalez, is that seven years after the first big countywide sand replenishment, “I see hundreds of thousands of people benefiting from that beach-sand project.”
Rather than seeing the projects as benefiting wealthy coastal property owners, Gonzalez said he sees beach replenishment as protecting public access to the ocean. At the same time, he agreed on the need to press for restrictions on coastal development, which has blocked natural-sand deposition.
Others within Surfrider, however, think Sandag’s approach has been misguided.
“I’m opposed to them relying on sand replenishment as the only tool to deal with beach erosion,” said Jim Jaffee, who is also a member of Surfrider’s local advisory board. “The problem is that we have a retreating coast and they’ve allowed people to build too close to the coastline in the past. We have not addressed that past problem. With rising sea levels [from global warming], we will have even more erosion. And I don’t necessarily believe the projects they’ve done have been a big success.”
There are so-called opportunistic sand programs that few oppose. Developers of Pacific Station in downtown Encinitas, for example, recently provided 37,000 cubic yards of sand from their project that went for beach restoration. Dedina and other opponents of large-scale projects have no trouble in principle with this type of program, though Jaffee said there was debris mixed into the sand from Pacific Station.
But there is broader opposition to big projects pressed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Opponents say these projects are strongly advocated for by a powerful lobby of affluent coastal property owners.
Steve Aceti, a lobbyist for beach restoration, says opponents of the projects overlook the environmental benefits of putting sand back on denuded beaches.
“When we restore a beach habitat, we see snowy plovers and least terns come back, along with grunion,” said Aceti. “An incidental benefit goes to the private homeowners [along the coast], and that’s what has beach-restoration opponents up in arms.”
Aceti insisted that when he lobbies for beach restoration, he looks “at the ecosystem and recreational benefits. I am not looking at the homeowners.” And with the county losing an estimated 35 million cubic yards of sand annually, Aceti said, “You have to recharge the system or watch it wash away.”
Dedina said the big projects pressed by Aceti and others have caused environmental damage. He’s particularly critical of the Corp of Engineers’ project in 2004, which Dedina says dumped questionable sand off Imperial Beach that included rebar and caused odors, leading surfers to name the site “Toxics.”
The Army Corps of Engineers’ $60 million project, he said, would pull sand from an area that is too close to the sewer outfall pipe from the International Wastewater Treatment Plant and that may contain munitions fired from the Army’s World War I–era Ream Field gunnery range.
“This is ten times bigger than other projects,” Dedina said. “It would destroy fishing and surfing.”
Dedina is also miffed about what he characterized as Imperial Beach’s failure to fully involve the community in planning. Wade, the city’s community development director, said there have been multiple opportunities for citizen involvement.
Wade agreed that the 2004 dump was done badly by the Army Corps of Engineers. For the smaller harbor-dredging project that could begin later this year, the development director said the corps will use equipment that will partly filter the material before it is deposited off the beach.