Public officials from Encinitas and Solana Beach kicked off their December by visiting Washington, D.C. and advocating for sand replenishment on their cities' beaches.
Following the trip, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said it is vital for the North County cities to have their sand replenished.
"One of the things that's clear from the more regional projects that we've done for sand replenishment is that it does protect the bluffs and prevents the ocean from over-topping Highway 101," she said.
The public officials — including Blakespear, Solana Beach City Councilmember Jewel Edson, Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade, Solana Beach lobbyist Howard Marlow, Encinitas City Manager Karen Brust, Encinitas project manager Kathy Weldon, and Carpi & Clay advocate Julie Minerva — attended seven meetings during their visit from Dec. 4 to Dec. 7 to advocate for the sand replenishment.
The North County project, which would replenish the sand every five or 10 years for 50 years, is an effort to bring more sand to the shores to help prevent the bluffs from being exposed to crashing waves, particularly during the winter season, and thus help maintain residential properties and public facilities on the upper bluff.
The threat of bluff failures has “forced many private homeowners to build seawalls to protect the base of the bluff,” according to a project document.
Another goal is to reduce erosion and shoreline narrowing to improve recreational opportunities, officials said, as well as increase public safety. In 2005, a woman fell to her death after she hopped over a safety barrier at the top of the bluffs in Encinitas.
Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited Moonlight Beach in Encinitas and Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach in March to learn about the sand replenishment efforts.
The 50-year project was unanimously approved by the two city councils in 2015 and signed off by the U.S. Congress last year as part of the federal Water Resources Development Act.
For the Moonlight Beach project, officials want a 50-foot wider berm, 7,800 feet of sand alongshore, a re-nourishment cycle of five years nine times and 340,000 cubic yards of sand.
At Fletcher Cove, a 150-foot wider berm, 7,200 feet of sand alongshore, a re-nourishment cycle of 10 years four times and an initial volume of sand of 700,000 cubic yards are all planned.
At the time of their visit in March, the engineers seemed supportive of the project, but Blakespear said it was imperative to keep the project on their radar, since the federal agency has a lot on its work plan.
"They're aware of the project, and things continue to move forward,” she said. “It's a slow-moving process. It's not as if this is eminently about to start."
However, she said factors, like uncertainty about President Donald Trump's priorities, make it hard to predict if and when the project will actually get off the ground.
Blakespear and the other public officials last week advocated for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish the design of the project, which has "been in the pipeline" for 14 years and received Coastal Commission approval.
"In some ways, it's hard to know what the future holds because of the fact that things change quickly," Blakespear said.