Boulder walls — called rip rap or revetments — along beach homes in Oceanside are used to protect properties from waves and high tides. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

As the northernmost municipality along coastal San Diego County, Oceanside seems fed up with feeding everybody else’s beaches.

Over the years, the city spent a lot of time and money pumping or hauling new sand onto its shrinking shoreline. That works for a hot minute — until natural ocean currents, storms and high tides swallow that sand away.

“Sand generally moves from north to south most of the year,” Kiel Koger, Oceanside’s public works director, wrote in an email, which means the grains end up nourishing other beaches or getting stuck in deep ocean canyons.

All Southern California is suffering from shrinking beaches, our protection from storms and high swell that threaten ocean-front property and critical city infrastructure. Oceanside is in trouble beginning 2025 when its popular tourist beach called The Strand will start to feel real impacts of human-caused global warming, which melts glaciers and raises the overall level of the ocean. That’s when the city’s assessment of future coastal vulnerability to climate change shows the earliest short-term impacts from sea level rise.

The last time the San Diego Association of Governments put down 300,000 cubic yards of good heavy sand in 2012, Oceanside lost most of that in about three years, said Brian Leslie, a coastal scientist from Oceanside’s hired consultant GHD. Yet Carlsbad, the city directly south of Oceanside, which also received a bunch of sand that same year, is seeing gains in its beach width almost 10 years later.

Oceanside sand studies graphic

Why? Carlsbad put its money where its groins are — and by groin, I mean the other word for a rocky wall built from the shore hundreds of feet into the ocean to trap sand that would otherwise float away. Carlsbad has two just south of Tamarack State Beach and that’s why Leslie believes Carlsbad sees beach gains where Oceanside doesn’t.

The solution? Time for Oceanside to get a groin, according to the consultant’s report. The best option for Oceanside, GHD suggests, is to build four 600-foot-long mini jetties (or groins) from Seagate Drive to just past Forster Street. That plan offered the best value after factoring in cost, environmental impact and performance.

The other options would be building two artificial reefs, or extending an existing jetty or continuing to slap sand on the beach.

“The cost per acre of beach is much lower for the groins option than for beach nourishment alone,” said Russ Cunninham, Oceanside’s principal planner.

But anytime anyone wants to throw a barrier out into the ocean, surfers perk their ears. Most of the surfing impacts of these different options are still unknown at this point. And not a lot of public members surveyed at the June 30 workshop on the plans cared all that much about those impacts.

The Oceanside City Council will crack open the consultant’s report during an Aug. 11 workshop.

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