ENCINITAS — Trucks moved at high rates of speed onto Ponto Beach in south Carlsbad carrying loads of sand during low tide Jan. 8. The unusual activity marked the beginning of a monthlong sand replenishment program that will eventually deposit 37,000 cubic yards of so-called opportunistic sand on the beach.
The sand originated from the construction site of Pacific Station in downtown Encinitas. The $40 million mixed-use development at 687 South Coast Highway, anchored by a Whole Foods Market, will include 47 condominiums, restaurants, shops and offices.
In a press conference, local developer John DeWald said he could have sold the sand to a cement plant but decided instead to give the sand to the city. The idea was brought to him more than a year ago by Steve Aceti, executive director of the California Coastal Coalition.
“This is a cost-effective way of doing beach restoration,” DeWald said.
Mayor Maggie Houlihan praised the cooperative effort. “This is a perfect example of a public-private partnership,” she said. “We talk about reduce, reuse, recycle and this is putting it into action.”
While Houlihan said that beachgoers would enjoy the impact of the new sand for months to come, at least one resident was not pleased.
Giles Finlayson, a longtime Sea Bluff resident, said he was shocked at the sight of so-called belly dumper trucks Thursday morning. “I opened up my bedroom window and here are these trucks careening down the beach dumping this brown sand,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has ever seen trucks going down the beach at 30 miles per hour.”
Finlayson said after receiving more information from city coastal program manager Kathy Weldon and local lifeguards about the process he became more accepting of the inevitable. “I guess I can live with it for a month,” he said.
The $133,000 cost of the sand replenishment program to DeWald was offset by a San Diego Association of Governments fund from fees imposed on bluff-top homeowners.
The process to get the sand from the construction site to the beach took more than a year DeWald said. A dozen federal, state and local agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SANDAG and the California Coastal Commission were involved in granting approval for the project.
Some residents were not convinced that dumping red dirt on the beach was effective. “Sand replenishment done on a massive scale like this is not going to increase our beaches,” Jeffrey Carter said. The Encinitas resident said that the possible negative impacts of pouring sand on top of an existing ecosystem outweighed the temporary benefits. “We don’t know what’s in that dirt,” he said. “What we do know is that it can smother the plants and animals living in the ocean.”
Carter’s wife, Neela agreed. “I guess it’s nice to see more sand on the beach but we really ought to be more concerned with what we can’t see and how that’s going to impact the coastline in the long run.”