Broad Beach homeowners identify sand source

Broad Beach has been receding for decades, a problem which accelerated sharply in the last few years. 

A group of Broad Beach homeowners say they have settled on a sand source in their ongoing quest to replenish the severely eroded beach. The new plan for the $20 million project calls for trucking in 600,000 cubic yards of sand from commercial quarries in Fillmore and Moorpark after an offshore site proved too difficult. 

“We’re comfortable and confident this is the sand we’re going to use, now it’s just an issue of permitting,” said attorney Ken Ehrlich, who represents an assessment district formed by property owners. 

Over the last few months, the homeowners ruled out the possibility of obtaining sand offshore from Dockweiler Beach, which is owned by the City of Los Angeles, after encountering difficulties. 

“The City [of LA] doesn’t really have a mechanism for dealing with this,” Ehrlich said. “We went to them and told them they owned something they didn’t even know they owned. But they had no regulatory or commercial process in place to deal with us.” 

The homeowners now plan to purchase 600,000 cubic yards of sand from privately owned commercial quarries in Fillmore and Moorpark, Calif. A quarry is generally an open type of mine used to extract building materials and minerals such as gravel and sand. 

Abandoning the offshore option allows the homeowners to “avoid the tricky issues of ownership rights in that sand,” said Marshall Grossman, vice chair of the Broad Beach project’s funding mechanism, which is called a geological hazard abatement district (GHAD). 

The GHAD faced major media and residential backlash earlier this year after pursuing offshore, publicly owned sand in Redondo and Manhattan beaches. 

Manhattan Beach Mayor Wayne Powell told CBS earlier this year, “Malibu tried to steal our sand, and all the money in Malibu cannot buy Manhattan Beach sand.” 

In order to protect their homes and properties from the ocean, 114 property owners formed the GHAD in 2010. The GHAD seeks government approvals to bring in enough sand to widen a mile-long stretch of beach from Trancas Creek to Point Lechuza out to 100 feet. The project would restore Broad Beach to its original width (before natural and man-made forces began eroding it away in the 1970s), re-establish sand dunes with native plants and bury a temporary rock wall built in front of 78 properties in 2010. 

The group has already spent $5 million of its $20 million overall budget on research and initial applications and permits from various governmental agencies. Ehrlich said he expects the total cost to remain under budget at $15 million or less. 

The group hoped to have Broad Beach fully replenished by summer 2013. Now, they are hoping to have a wider beach by summer or fall 2014. 

Still, getting an OK on the sand may prove just as tricky as locating the sand. The State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission must now evaluate the new inland sites to sign off on the use of the sand, after the offshore site at Dockweiler was ruled out. 

“We’re kind of back at square one with a new sand source,” said Sheri Pemberton, a spokeswoman for the State Lands Commission (SLC). “The information that our staff needs to review and analyze the sand source … is lacking.” 

Both State Lands and the California Coastal Commission have requested further information on the chemical composition and quality of inland sand. Pemberton said a replenishment project of this scale has never been overseen by the state. 

“The only examples are several leases the SLC has authorized for what are termed ‘opportunistic beach replenishment projects’ where a coastal city may have upland development projects occurring within the city that may excavate materials suitable for beach replenishment,” Pemberton said. “However, they tend to be small scale, on the order of 5,000- 10,000 yards at a time. Otherwise there is nothing remotely similar to the Broad Beach project.” 

Ehrlich said he is still coordinating with both agencies “to ensure complete applications for both.” 

The transportation of the sand could come into question, too. Moving 600,000 cubic yards of sand from Fillmore and Moorpark to Malibu is enough to fill a 20-cubic-yard dump truck 30,000 times. Ehrlich is investigating whether the GHAD will need to obtain additional traffic permitting from the City of Malibu to truck in the sand. 

The project will also require permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Department of Transportation.