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

Oceanside city leaders voted to test beach groins and a sand bypass system in an effort to save the city’s beaches at a recent Council meeting.

The decision represents a shift away from the city’s last sand replenishment projects, and in a direction that other mayors in North County don’t agree with. They say the move will deplete their beaches as a result. Oceanside’s mayor isn’t on board with the decision, either.

Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, who made the sole vote against the project at a recent City Council meeting, criticized her fellow Council members in an interview with Voice of San Diego.

“I think we’re looking like bad kids on the playground if we do this,” Sanchez, who was previously on the state Coastal Commission, said  Wednesday. “I’d rather we form it together with other north coastal cities. We should stick together.”

Still, the $1 million plan is moving forward. Oceanside will install several groins, which are perpendicular hard structures made out of rock used to maintain beaches by capturing sand moving in the longshore direction, and a sand bypass system as part of a newly approved pilot project meant to improve the city’s disappearing beaches, the Coast News reported.

Four groins will be placed south of Wisconsin Street to test their effectiveness, along with a sand bypass system to transport pumped sand to beaches via a network of underground pipelines. If successful, the city will add more groins on an as-needed basis along the city’s coastline. The city is also looking for sand from El Corazon, San Luis Rey River and the future Buena Vista Lagoon restoration project.

“The project will begin with an ‘adaptable and reversible’ design that will be informed by a scientific monitoring program led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” the Coast News reported.

But it’s unlikely to be approved by the state because it interferes with the natural flow of sand down the coast, Sanchez told me and a reporter from the Union-Tribune.

“Knowing that the Coastal Commission will not approve this, I think it is a waste of money,” she told the Union-Tribune.

She said a sand replenishment project would be a better investment and more cost effective option for the city, which “can barely afford to pay its police officers.”

The city has tried sand replenishment before, VOSD’s MacKenzie Elmer wrote in a recent Environment Report. “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,” Elmer wrote.

The harbor dredging has been insufficient in recent years and the city has been looking for other ways to restore its eroding coastline.

“Studies show the sediment from the harbor is too fine-grained, and it quickly washes away in the surf and tides,” the Union-Tribune wrote.

Oceanside had a few options to consider. Long Beach consulting firm GHD, which was hired by the city, recommended Oceanside get a groin. It also offered other options like two artificial reefs or extending an existing jetty or continuing to slap sand on the beach (Sanchez’s preference).

“The best option for Oceanside 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,” Elmer wrote about the consultant’s report.

Everyone concedes that the beaches need saving, but there remains widespread disagreement over how to do that. Cities often share the same sand, even as they try different methods to preserve it.

Because sand generally moves from north to south most of the year, the grains end up nourishing other beaches or get stuck in deep ocean canyons.

Other North County cities like Carlsbad are working on plans to restore their beaches. Carlsbad and its Tamarack State Beach has its own jetty to trap sand there, the Coast News reported.

Sanchez said city staff didn’t consult with other mayors to try to work out a regional plan, and she isn’t happy about it. She said Oceanside needs to give in and work with other cities, not against them.

Sanchez also hinted at an “immediate internal problem.” The city can’t put sand on its beach right now because it doesn’t have a permit to do it. The city didn’t renew its annual Sand Compatibility and Opportunistic Use Program permit before it expired this year, she said.

“We don’t seem to be able to do anything right, and that concerns me,” she said.

Things will only get worse when the city starts to really feel the impacts of human-caused global warming, and its vulnerability in the face of rising sea levels is exposed.

What We’re Working On

  • Last school year, schools had to close entire classrooms when one student tested positive for COVID-19, but the latest guidance is a lot more complicated – and almost unintelligible when it comes to individual circumstances. I’m looking to talk to North County parents about their own experiences during the first weeks of school. Shoot me an email to chat.
  • Hanna Holford said she was afraid to report sexual harassment by her professor to Cal State San Marcos officials because he held power over her grades during her graduating year. We talked at length about the case. She believes it reveals areas for improvement when it comes to investigating Title IX cases and communicating the outcomes to victims and other students.
  • Early in the pandemic, most jail bookings for misdemeanor offenses ground to a halt. Some policies have since shifted – but the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department won’t release details on its booking policies or say which offenses make someone eligible to be booked into jail, my colleague Lisa Halverstadt reported.

In Other News

  • The Oceanside City Council unanimously denied a proposal last week to build a more than 142,000-square-foot Amazon distribution center near several residential neighborhoods. (Coast News)
  • The San Dieguito Faculty Association recently started to collect signatures for the recall of San Dieguito Union High School District Trustee Michael Allman. (Coast News)
  • The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development has informed Encinitas that its latest housing plan is in “substantial compliance” with state law, giving some city leaders a reason to celebrate this month. (Union-Tribune)
  • The Ramona Unified School District planned to give parents the ability to opt out of requiring their children to follow the state’s masking mandate, but reversed course. (NBC 7)
  • Encinitas and other cities have returned to virtual meetings, and Encinitas will require its city employees to have the COVID-19 vaccine or negative COVID tests. (Union-Tribune, Coast News)
  • Oceanside is preparing to dive into the El Corazon Aquatic Center. It’s debuting the city’s first new pools since the 1950s. (Union-Tribune)
  • And finally, after a slew of financial turmoil over the last few years, Palomar College has a new president. (Union-Tribune)

Kayla Jiminez was a staff writer for Voice of San Diego. She covered about communities, politics and regional issues in North County as well as school...

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