$20 million could be spent to save Broad Beach

Recent storms further eroded the sand in front of Broad Beach homes, with ocean water spilling into some backyards. Environmental organizations say a rock wall being built to stop the erosion could worsen the problem.

By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor

The first phase of a long-term solution to the ongoing erosion of Broad Beach began last week with the emergency construction of an eight-foot-tall, 4,100-foot-long rock wall designed to shield beachfront homes and their septic tanks from being undermined by high tides and stormy surf.

Paid for entirely by homeowners, the $3.4 million rock wall, expected to reach completion in six weeks, is part of a $15 million to $20 million plan to permanently restore Broad Beach to its 100-foot width within the next six years, according to members of the Trancas Property Owners Association.

Gary Griggs, a professor of earth and planetary science at UC Santa Cruz and director of the university?s Institute of Marine Sciences, in a previous interview with The Malibu Times explained the cause of Broad Beach?s narrowing trend (and that of many Southern California beaches) as a combination of recurring weather patterns and rising sea levels.

Griggs explained that beaches tend to lose sand and narrow during warmer phases of weather, which California has been experiencing since 1978. Griggs said Broad Beach started narrowing in the late ?70s, became exceedingly noticeable during the past four to six years and has worsened significantly during the last year or so.

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The rapid exacerbation of the erosion last year caused the city to issue emergency permits that allowed beachfront residents to place sandbags in front of their homes upward of the mean high tide line.

Construction of the rock wall was approved under another emergency development permit issued last week by the city and the California Coastal Commission, after hundreds of sand bags failed to prevent ocean water from spilling into the backyards of at least three homes during high tide. The sand bags were also no defense for another home, whose 30-foot deck and wind shelter collapsed during the weekend due to the erosion, TPOA President Wini Lumsden said Monday in a phone interview.

In addition to providing beachfront homes with immediate protection, the rock wall will serve as a quick fix that will afford the association more time to finalize the second phase of the plan: beach nourishment, which involves the transport and placement of large quantities of sand and natural sediment along the ocean water?s edge to advance the shoreline seaward. The rock wall will eventually be buried underneath the sand, Lumsden said.

Though they acknowledge homeowners? rights to protect their property, some environmentalists oppose the sea wall for the same reason they do sand bags: hard structures exacerbate erosion by causing waves to refract, or change direction, and further deplete the beach of sand.

?We understand no one wants to lose their home, but we do want homeowners living on the coast to consider the most natural low-impact solutions first,? Nancy Hastings, Southern California field coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, said Monday in a phone interview. ?I would hope that homeowners would consider just doing the beach nourishment instead of the revetment, but I think the homeowners? biggest fear that if they only do the nourishment and it doesn?t work, they?re going to be stuck in the same situation they?re in now. Plus, the nourishment is very expensive. It really is an unfortunate situation.?

But Steve Levitan, a member of the TPOA?s restoration committee, said Monday that all alternate solutions to the sea wall had been examined.

?I think we examined every possible scenario,? Levitan said. ?We?re not trying to wall off Broad Beach. All we want to do is restore it to the way it was 30 years ago, when it was healthy.?

Both Levitan and Lumsden said they also view the restoration project as an opportunity to erase the infamous stereotype of Broad Beach homeowners, who have long been accused of NIMBYism by some who say they oppose public access. The erosion has played a role in the development of the stereotype, as the narrowing of the beach has blurred public and private property boundaries.

?There will be some privacy buffers, but the project will create a significant amount of beach, which will be mostly for public use,? Lumsden said.

?We?ve gotten a very bad rap,? Levitan said. ?[Broad Beach residents] don?t have an issue with people coming down to enjoy the beach. The only issue we have is when people do things on the beach that are illegal elsewhere.

?Everything we are doing now will make Broad Beach a much better place for residents and the public,? he continued. ?We want to lessen tension at the beach. We want to be known as the leaders of beach restoration in California.?

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