Winter Sand Berm Goes in at Adamson House

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A tractor dumps sand on a berm constructed by the LA County Dept. of Beaches and Harbors to help curb erosion in front of the Adamson House near the Malibu Lagoon. 

Worried by ongoing erosion in front of the historic Adamson House, local and state officials secured an emergency permit last week to bring in 50 dump truck loads of sand from Westward Beach to build a temporary 5-foot sand berm in front of the Adamson House near the Malibu Lagoon. 

The berm was completed Monday and is designed as a barrier to help shift the Malibu Lagoon’s breach point toward the west, temporarily relieving some of the erosion in front of the Adamson House through the winter, officials said. Roughly 50 dump truck loads of sand were transported. 

“For [the lagoon] to operate properly, it needs to breach much further west,” said John Kelly, deputy director for the LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors. 

For the past 15 years, the lagoon has breached at its easternmost point—directly in front of the historic property. 

“That natural area that protects the Adamson House has eroded away over the last several years, so hopefully we’ll build it up and protect it,” said Craig Sap, superintendent of the Angeles District for California State Parks. 

Nestled between the Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach, the Adamson House has been a coastal staple of Malibu since 1930. The state acquired the 10-room, two-story home in 1968. State Parks offers tours to the public and the house plays host to many private events, including weddings. 

Kelly’s agency chose to bring in 500 cubic yards of publicly owned sand for the berm from the eastern edge of Westward Beach bordering Point Dume State Beach. 

“We chose [that sand] because of the depth of the sand in the back beach area,” Kelly said. “It’s very deep. Our equipment and the lifeguards have trouble driving on the beach… It seemed like the best location.” 

On Friday and Monday, dump trucks hauled the sand from Westward to Surfrider, carrying just under 10 cubic yards of sand per trip, Kelly said. 

The winter berm should be dismantled by late February or early March, Kelly said. But sand will not be returned to the Westward area. Instead, Beaches and Harbors plans on compacting the berm’s remnants into Surfrider Beach. 

Getting the berm installed was a joint effort among local surfers, State Parks, Beaches and Harbors, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office, the State Lands Commission, Army Corps of Engineers and the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board, which all met as the Lagoon Management Task Force for two months. 

Surfers support berm 

For the surfing community, the berm not only means less erosion in front of the Adamson House, but also a potential improvement on surf conditions. 

Surf in the areas of Surfrider Beach known as Third Point and First Point has been impacted ever since the lagoon began breaching to the east. 

Local surfer Andy Lyon said he attended one meeting and suggested the agencies build the winter berm, similar to the ones constructed at Zuma Beach every year. 

“It’s the biggest thing to happen as far as managing where that lagoon comes out in, like, 20 years,” Lyon said. “It’s a huge step.” 

“For surfers, this breach pattern has taken sediment away from Third Point while simultaneously creating sandbars throughout inside First Point,” according to a story published on SurferToday.com

Kelly said it was too early to know whether a winter berm would be installed every winter in front of the Adamson House. The lagoon’s water level is currently high, but it needs to breach completely before officials assess the berm’s efficiency, he said. 

“If it doesn’t work, nothing ventured, nothing lost,” Sap added. 

State: no tie between lagoon project and quickened erosion 

Last year, Sap’s agency oversaw the highly controversial Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project to reconfigure the lagoon, which critics have speculated exacerbated the Adamson House erosion. 

“It has nothing to do with the lagoon before the project, and has nothing to do with the configuration of the lagoon now. It was worse before the project,” Sap said.

Kelly backed up Sap, contending the erosion has gone on for too long for there to be a direct connection to the project.