Broad Beach Sand Project Proponents Work To Overcome Another Snag

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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.

The ongoing, eight-year-long quest to bring in tons of sand to replenish Malibu’s now nonexistent Broad Beach has hit yet another snag, irritating stakeholders and homeowners who worry that every delay means more time the mile-long stretch of beachfront houses must battle the elements.

One proposed solution that would have trucks making thousands of trips through Ventura County and along PCH has turned heads in neighboring communities, but a new solution seemed a good match — until last month, when the California Coastal Commission (CCC) rejected a proposal on the basis that the color of the sand was not a close enough match.

Now, Ken Palko, president of Polaris Materials Corporation, which was to provide the sand, is looking for a second chance, and he’s hired well-known environmentalist Sara Wan to help.

“Polaris has good quality sand,” she continued. “I have a lot of respect for the CCC staff, but I don’t think it’s the right decision. They were looking at the color issue in isolation and they should’ve been looking at the big picture — the total environmental impact. They weighed visual impact on top of everything else.”

While the CCC finally green-lighted the beach nourishment project two years ago, they reserved the right of final approval over the sand brought in. 

The Broad Beach Geological Hazardous Abatement District (GHAD) was formed by the homeowners to finance the estimated $30 million project. The group investigated numerous inland and offshore sources of sand, as well as methods of transporting and placing it, and various agencies and local governments have rejected them all. 

The latest proposed solution finally seemed to stick. Polaris, which supplies construction aggregates to coastal markets in California, proposed a “marine supplied sand solution.” 

A ship would be loaded with sand from their sand quarry near the ocean that meets all of the project specifications for size, shape and cleanliness; sail from British Columbia to Broad Beach, and pump it to shore as slurry (a mix of sand and water). The method has been used successfully several times on beach sand replenishment projects in Northern California.

Palko said his solution would place the sand faster, provide access to the beach during construction, create less dust and other emissions and have practically no noise or traffic impact. 

The alternate — controversial — method included 22,000 round-trip truckloads of sand being brought in from quarries in Ventura County over local roads, including PCH, and then being dumped into the Zuma Beach parking lot and picked up by earth-moving equipment. Various towns in Ventura County were already threatening to sue each other over the truck traffic, noise and dirt the project would create. 

The marine solution was submitted to Coastal Commission staff for approval by GHAD’s engineering company, Moffatt & Nichol, which took photos of sand samples sent in for lab analysis. Palko said his company would have carefully overseen the photography if they’d known the commission was evaluating the color. 

Last month, the CCC rejected the proposal on the basis that the color of the sand was not a close enough match. There was no public hearing required on the issue. Coastal Commission spokespeople did not reply to requests for comment by the time The Malibu Times went to print.

“The [GHAD] permit has no specific color requirements,” Palko lamented. “We don’t believe that a slight difference in color justifies a return to the plan of 44,000 truck hours or all of the other advantages to bringing it in by ship as slurry.”

Palko, who began conversations with the GHAD back in 2013, pointed out the color of the sand on Broad Beach was not uniform — it changed going from east to west, and his sand matched some areas of the beach. Regardless, he added, “There is no color to match now, because they have no beach.”

Palko has now hired Malibu resident Wan as his consultant on the matter. Wan spent 16 years on the CCC, and was chair twice.

“I’m fussy about who I’ll take on as a client,” she said in a phone interview. “But I feel that delivery by barge makes more environmental sense, because the community would be avoiding 22,000 trucks — one every minute — on PCH. In my opinion, that would be a disaster. I think it would be in everyone’s best interest, GHAD’s and the community’s, to go with this less expensive option and avoid the trucks coming back every three to five years — because sand would have to be replenished on an ongoing basis. I felt there was a major long-term impact here that needed to be dealt with.”

Wan also said she was hopeful Polaris would have another shot.

“We’re hoping for an opportunity to resubmit to the CCC and find the optimal solution,” Wan concluded. “The homes and beach on Broad Beach must be protected.” 

Attorney Ken Ehrlich, attorney and spokesperson for the GHAD, said the CCC decision was “a big disappointment,” and they hope it’s possible for Polaris to reformulate the sand mixture and go back to the CCC. “We’re trying to get this project done.”