Broad Beach Residents Still Waiting on Sand

An emergency rock wall went up along the eroding coastline of Broad Beach in 2010, but a long-term plan for sand replenishment remains in limbo. 

The Broad Beach Geologic Hazard Abatement District continues to battle obstacles to its $31 million beach nourishment project intended to reconstruct and restore the vanishing sand in front of some of Malibu’s priciest real estate, with the latest setback: a one-year delay — announced last week.

The project was narrowly approved by the California Coastal Commission on a seven-to-five vote last October, after a four-hour hearing, but continues to be delayed.

It is a complex and unprecedented project that involves importing as much as 600,000 cubic yards of sand — beginning with 300,000 cubic yards — and placing it on top of the existing 4,150-foot-long rock revetment, with the intention of restoring the beach and the almost non-existent network of dunes, or at least slowing the erosion. 

There’s no guarantee that the plan will work, but Broad Beach residents have few options. The wide dunes that gave Broad Beach its name have vanished over the past two decades, leaving beachfront property at risk from storms and tides, and beachgoers without a beach. An emergency rock revetment was approved in 2010, after major storm damage put homes at risk, but it was intended to be a temporary measure. It doesn’t solve the erosion problem and has created access issues, blocking the public easements to what little beach still exists.

Although the project is being funded entirely by Broad Beach residents, the plan required approval from the State Lands Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, in addition to the Coastal Commission, and is subject to numerous conditions and limitations.

Even with all of the approvals in place, the project stalled. Fears that last year’s El Niño forecast would impact the work caused the first delay. A legal fight over the source of the sand and the route which trucks will take to deliver it was the second, and remains to be solved. The third obstacle involves monitoring and testing.

The County of Los Angeles and the City of Fillmore served the Broad Beach residents’ district and the City of Moorpark — home to the project’s preferred sand quarry — with a lawsuit in April, contending that the sand plan failed to address the potential impact of the truck traffic on local roads. The trial date for the case is Nov. 17. Both sides are meeting for court-ordered mediation in an attempt to work out an eleventh hour solution, though, according to those involved, that sand source is still preferred.

“Sand from existing quarries in the Moorpark/Fillmore-area remains our primary project sand source,” Broad Beach attorney Ken Ehrlich told The Malibu Times in an email. 

He explained that all of the approvals obtained for the project to date are based on the use of sand from that area, although the district is also considering other options, including a much closer source: Upper Calleguas Creek in Camarillo.

“[Calleguas Creek] is one of many sand sources under consideration as a means of lowering project cost and reducing impacts,” Ehrlich confirmed. The [district] continues to evaluate a variety of sand sources for the project that will comply with the CCC’s sand specification.”

Because the project area is located within a Marine Protected Area and a designated Area of Special Biological Significance, it requires extensive monitoring and testing. Ehrlich confirmed that Coastal Commission staff directed that the project be postponed for a year. 

“Coastal Commission staff did not approve [the monitoring plan] in time to complete this sampling,” Ehrlich wrote, adding that CCC staff has “since approved rigorous sampling parameters for fall 2016 and spring/summer 2017, which the [district] intends to implement.”

In the meantime, Broad Beach continues to erode. The damaging El Niño weather predicted last winter failed to materialize, but with storm season on its way and the highest tides of the year arriving in mid-December, Broad Beach residents are hoping their luck continues to hold.