The Coast News Group
This ramp goes down to the water at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Pacific Street in Oceanside. According to Nick Ricci, board member of !S.O.S.Oceanside!, it used to lead to a beach. Photo by Samantha Taylor

A plan to save the sand

OCEANSIDE — After years of struggling to keep sand on its beaches with little help from federal and state resources, the city is preparing a plan of its own.

City Council directed staff at its Oct. 9 meeting to develop a project that will prepare a preliminary design along with an environmental review and necessary permits for beach sand retention. This project will be included as an amendment to the city’s Capital Improvements Budget.

Oceanside’s sand woes started in 1942 after Camp Pendleton Harbor’s north jetty was built, according to Public Works Director Kiel Koger.

The federal government acknowledged responsibility for the sand erosion in 1953. Nearly half a decade later, U.S. Congress authorized a study to be completed within 44 months and funded entirely by federal resources to mitigate erosion and other impacts caused by Camp Pendleton’s harbor with the Water Resources Act of 2000.

Though its deadline is way past due, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not completed the study. The Corps has also stated it will cost $1.82 million and would take 31 months to complete. Koger said the Corps has so far spent $3.7 million to date on the study.

The city makes attempts annually to get sand back on its beaches, including an annual trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with Corps staff members as well as its federal representatives and senators. Letters written by Oceanside mayors and legislators have asked for the study to be funded and completed to no avail.

The city has also asked SANDAG to perform a third regional beach nourishment project similar to one in 2001 and 2012, but Koger said no funding has been identified for such a project yet.

Currently, the city gets most of its extra sand from its harbor after the Army Corps of Engineers dredges it annually. That’s just a temporary fix, Koger noted, and the sand from that dredging project disappears from Oceanside’s beaches pretty quickly.

Councilman Chris Rodriguez asked if desert sand could be brought from inland, but Koger explained that so far alternative options don’t pencil out in the city’s favor.

“It’s expensive to truck sand from inland or further away,” Koger said.

The city also has to go through the California Coastal Commission to get the necessary permits for sand replenishment — another piece of “red tape” for getting sand back.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez noted that sand erosion is also the result of sea level rise and added that the city is currently performing a study to figure out how the city will respond to sea level rise.

Sanchez wants to see the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) dollars go toward replenishing sand on its beaches every year or two.

Councilman Ryan Keim pointed out that the lack of sand will only exacerbate the problem of sea level rise.

The city isn’t the only entity in Oceanside trying to save Oceanside’s sand. Earlier this year, a group called !S.O.S.Oceanside! formed with the goal of working with the city to protect the city’s beaches from sand erosion.

The group particularly wants to see groins built along the beaches. Groins are short, narrow structures similar to jetties that are built along the water’s edge specifically to protect sand from eroding away.

Dirk Ackema, a board member of the group, told council he was glad they were taking an initiative on protecting the city’s sand.

“It seems to us that the Army Corps of Engineers has given up on us,” Ackema said. “We’re encouraged that the city is taking it upon ourselves to look at the issue of sand loss and beach preservation.”

Ackema said his group feels that sand erosion is the most important issue Oceanside is currently facing.

“Without the beach, our tourist industry and business climate would suffer,” Ackema said.