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Environmental Groups Question Plan to Protect Homes at Broad Beach

Groups ranging from Heal the Bay to the Surfrider Foundation raise concerns over plans to dredge sand off the coast and bury a rock barricade under a dune system to protect homes and septic tanks along Broad Beach in Malibu.

Several environmental groups asked for clarification during a public hearing last week on the impacts to the surf along California's coastline, including off Manhattan Beach, from a project aimed at slowing erosion at Broad Beach in Malibu.

"I’m wondering if taking sand out of the littoral zone will create a deficit of sand where it may be needed," said Graham Hamilton of the Surfrider Foundation.

No State Lands commissioners were present at the public hearing at Malibu City Hall Thursday on an Analysis of Public Trust Resources and Values for the project, which is expected to provide relief between 10 to 20 years for up to 114 threatened homes, spanning from Lechuza Point to Trancas Creek in Malibu.

The plans call for dredging sand off the coast of Broad Beach from the Trancas deposit, which lies outside the littoral zone, which is closest to shore, said Dan Gira of AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, the consulting firm preparing the environmental documents for the project.

“We’re relatively confident it won’t actually affect the onshore beach areas or surf conditions," Gira said. 

The fine sand from the Trancas area would be used to create sand dunes, as wildlife habitat, and would be placed over an existing emergency rock wall that was rushed into place several years ago to protect houses.

Plans also call for possible dredging in other locations with courser sand off Manhattan Beach, where the City Council has publicly opposed the project; off Dockweiler Beach near Marina Del Rey; and a regularly dredged area near Ventura Harbor.

About 500,000 cubic yards of sand would be scooped from a 27-acre, L-shaped plot about a half-mile off Manhattan Beach, according to an initial analysis, which considered six sites off Manhattan Beach.

To get the sand to Broad Beach could take up to 500 barge trips and 270-small vessel trips, he said.

Other sources include a stockpile near Calleguas Creek in Ventura County. To move that sand would require 50,000 dump trucks to travel down Pacific Coast Highway to the site, according to Gira.

In the fall, the plans call for the use of large scrapers and earth movers or possibly trucks to move sand from the sand rich part of the beach back up to the west end, Gira said.

The public has until Nov. 16 to submit comments to the State Lands Commission, which will consider the project at its Dec. 5 meeting.

During public testimony, Nancy Hastings, a field coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, called into question plans for a buried rock barricade, known as a revetment, under a dune system near the homes.

“That does not echo what mother nature would have had there," Hastings said.

Hastings called the plan temporary.

"There has been a long history of managing the sand and managing the erosion at Broad Beach, in some cases, legally and illegally," Hastings said.

She pointed to lessons from Hurricane Sandy, where East Coast homeowners are looking at rebuilding or retreating from the coast. 

"Where retreat is not feasible, we do consider beach replenishment [on a case-by-case basis]," Hastings said. She asked that the project look to bolster threatened septic tanks by having homeowners switch to dry composting or waterless toilets.

Graham Hamilton of the Surfrider Foundation called into question the plans to take sand from off the deposit off Trancas and other areas off California's coastline.

"I’m wondering if taking sand out of the littoral zone will create a deficit of sand where it may be needed," Hamilton said.

He said the surfing at Zuma Beach and other areas in western Malibu are a resource for Malibu residents and visitors from the nearby valley.

“I think the reality is that beach replenishment are short sided solution to a problem that is only increasing,” he said. 

A Manhattan Beach resident said he was concerned about plans to dredge sand from off his city's coastline.

"If we do Dockweiler this year, especially if we have weather events that are severe, you may be coming to Manhattan Beach and other beaches to get more sand," he said.

A representative from Heal the Bay expressed concern for wildlife living in the rocks and tide pools off Broad Beach that would be buried by imported sand, as well as whales and turtles that could get in the way of the barges.

Karen Martin, a Pepperdine University professor, outlined her questions about public beach access.

"As you heard, there is an issue of how many use this beach," Martin said. "On Broad Beach there are no restrooms, no lifeguards."

No Broad Beach homeowners spoke during the hearing, which lasted about an hour.

A series of El Nino storms in 1997-98 and other storms in 2007-08 caused serious erosion damage at the beach.

In 2010, the California Coastal Commission and the city of Malibu issued emergency permits to protect homes through the construction of a temporary emergency rock revetment, which replaced failing temporary sandbags.

Comments can be submitted by email -- put "Broad Beach Restoration Project Comments" in the subject line -- to Jason.Ramos@slc.ca.gov or by U.S. mail to: Jason Ramos, environmental scientist, California State Lands Commission, 100 Howe Ave., Suite 100-South, Sacramento, 95825.

-City News Service contributed some background on the Manhattan Beach plans to this report.

Always Right November 13, 2012 at 12:21 AM
There is too much apathy in this town and state. But then again, who cares.
Nancy Hastings November 13, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Important clarification: Surfrider DID NOT comment that some homeowners (at Broad Beach) should retreat from the coast... that comment was related to following how the East Coast handles rebuilding vs. choosing managed retreat following Hurricane Sandy. In circumstances where landward retreat is not feasible, Surfrider does consider sand replenishment projects on a case-by-case basis. Surfrider DID suggest that threatened septic systems at Broad Beach could be removed and replaced with alternatives (such as dry composting, waterless toilets), thus removing the threat to the existing structures - thereby removing the need for the rock revetment, and reducing the risk to human health if and when the septics are exposed by future storm events. That was the only "retreat" suggested... a retreat of the threatened structures (the septic systems). Surfers should watch this project closely... and ask what will happen to sandbars and surfing resources if 600,000 cubic yards of sand is removed.... will that result in a deficit later on? Will we be left with sand-starved beaches and smaller surfing sandbars in the unforseeable future?
Jessica E. Davis November 13, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I agree that the section I wrote about homeowners in general was not very clear, and I added language in to further clarify that you meant how the East Coast is considering rebuilding or managed retreat.

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