Broad Beach Sand Replenishment on Shaky Ground

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The Broad Beach restoration plan, officially known as a “beach nourishment project,” is designed to replace sand after a dramatic shrinking of the beach due to erosion since 2008. The beach will then be opened back up for public access.

A few months after receiving final California Coastal Commission (CCC) approval of a project that would bring 600,000 cubic yards of sand to Malibu’s decimated Broad Beach, trouble is brewing in Ventura County over how to get the sand from point A to point B without ruffling too many feathers.

The plan, officially known as a “beach nourishment project,” is designed to replace sand after a dramatic shrinking of the beach due to erosion since 2008. The beach will then be opened back up for public access.

The issues began when the City of Fillmore caught wind of the plan to move the sand — an estimated 43,000 truck trips over the course of the first stage in the project, or 420 trips per day — on Highway 126 from the City of Moorpark through Fillmore.

The Broad Beach Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD), a group made up of 121 Malibu property owners, has committed $31 million to the project that earned CCC approval in a narrow 7-5 vote back in October. Part of that approval involves specifics including the sand’s origin and its size, texture and shape. The agreement with Moorpark apparently did not involve input from Fillmore officials.

Fillmore’s reaction? “Nope.”

“The real issue for us [is] not the fact that they need to have sand, it’s the fact that the Broad Beach group put together a plan that said, ‘No trucks through Moorpark,’ — essentially all trucks through Fillmore,” Fillmore City Manager Dave Rowlands told The Malibu Times. Rowlands said Fillmore is working with the Broad Beach GHAD to find potential alternatives.

“We’re working to assist them in finding alternative sand locations, to get them sand for their project. We’re also trying to work with them in terms of truck rounds, so we can minimize the impact, not only in our city, but in other cities in Ventura County,” Rowlands said.

But Fillmore is also preparing a legal case should these negotiations fall through.

During closed session at its Feb. 23 city council meeting, Fillmore City Council authorized its city attorney to work with Ventura County Counsel “if need be” to sue Moorpark, Rowlands said. 

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted in closed session earlier in February to authorize the County Counsel’s Office to sue the City of Moorpark if it went through with the deal.

Both Moorpark and Fillmore are in the Fourth Supervisory District in Ventura County, under Supervisor Peter Foy. Foy did not attend the meeting where supervisors decided to threaten legal action against Moorpark, according to his Chief of Staff, Brian Miller.

“My boss, Peter Foy, was not at the meeting when they voted in closed session, and his belief is when one municipal agency is suing another, it’s taxpayers against taxpayers and no one wins,” Miller said during a phone interview with The Malibu Times. “We really need to sit down and find a resolution to this, so that’s his hope anyways.”

Broad Beach GHAD attorney Ken Ehrlich said his group is working hard to either settle the dispute or come up with alternatives, having already compiled a list of possible sources since the project began looking in 2010.

“We’re working hard, number one, to try to work behind the scenes with all the stakeholders to try to see if there’s a resolution we can come to with the truck routes,” Ehrlich said. “We want there to be peace.”

It remains to be seen whether Fillmore and Moorpark will settle their differences in our out of court, or whether the Broad Beach GHAD will have to look elsewhere for a viable sand source, but Rowlands did say it seems unlikely a monetary settlement would make the problem go away.

“[When we’re looking at] 60 or 70,000 trips, I’m not sure how offsetting could justify that,” Rowlands said.

If no resolution can be found, Ehrlich said alternatives are in the works.

“Number two, with equal vigor and equal diligence, we are working to pursue other sand sources, some of which we knew of before this agreement,” Ehrlich said.

One of those sources, Miller said, may be sand that was dredged from the Calleguas Creek in Camarillo. The sand is owned by Tom Staben, who was not available to speak by the time The Malibu Times went to print.

Ehrlich confirmed the Camarillo sand has been considered, but is not the primary source.

“Mr. Staben … has not been able to confirm through empirical testing whether he can actually meet [the CCC] specification,” Ehrlich said. “It’s not something we’re actively pursuing. The ball is in Mr. Staben’s court; we’re looking at other options.”

What those options are, Ehrlich did not specify.

“There are three or four other alternative sources that don’t entail Moorpark or Fillmore that we’re pursuing right now, but until they’re real and no longer speculative, we just aren’t going to talk about them,” Ehrlich said. 

As for the timeline of the project, Ehrlich said he felt confident it would stay on track for fall or early winter 2016.

Moorpark City Manager Steven Kueny did not respond to requests for an interview by the time The Malibu Times went to print.