ENCINITAS — Construction of the Cardiff Beach Living Shoreline Project — an attempt to improve habitat and protect Cardiff State Beach and Highway 101 from coastal flooding — has gained steam, with a projected completion date of late February 2019.
Encinitas, in partnership with several state and federal agencies, has received grant funding from the Ocean Protection Council “to reduce the vulnerability of Coast Highway 101 to flooding, create coastal dune habitat, create a pedestrian path along the dunes, and beneficially reuse sand from future San Elijo Lagoon annual dredging operations,” according to a city press release.
The project will stretch along the Cardiff State Beach shoreline from near the Chart House restaurant to about 200 feet short of the parking lot on the southern end. Given the low elevation of the highway there, which varies from about 15 to 20 feet above sea level, the area has been particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding during large storms.
The city has also voiced concern that projected sea-level rise could increase the flooding’s incidence and severity. The dune system will “limit the impact” of coastal flooding without being able to “contain it all,” said Pete Milligan, the city’s project engineer.
Milligan explained that the heaps of sand currently found on the northern edge of the beach came from a recent excavation of the San Elijo Lagoon inlet. The inlet gets excavated annually to cleanse the lagoon of stagnant water and keep it healthy.
The newly dredged sand will be placed on top of the dunes, which will be built with two-ton rocks — some of which already line the eastern side of the beach — over geotech fabric. In order to ensure that the dunes do not block beach views, they will have a maximum height of three feet above centerline of Highway 101.
Milligan said of the layout, “It’s more like one massive dune, approximately 60 feet wide, that is interrupted by access points.” Six lateral entryways, delineated by timber posts with rope handrails, will provide access through the dunes to the beach.
The diagonal paths will be spaced about 180 feet apart on the northern side of the project, which is the wider section of beach that also has highway parking. The middle and south ends of the project don’t have highway parking, and the beach narrows there.
Informational signs about dune habitat, as well as signs asking people to keep off the dunes, will be installed.
Project plans also include a pedestrian path running parallel to Highway 101 and connecting with the sidewalk at the southern end of the beach. The path’s width varies but will average 7 feet. Made of decomposed granite, it will be stable enough for wheelchair use yet permeable enough to allow water through.
As a final step, the San Elijo Conservancy plans to seed the top of the dunes with native plants, including sand verbenas, beach evening primrose and Orcutt’s pincushion. Milligan said that the plantings will improve dune habitat and that the dunes will be protected by signage, maintenance and the restriction of pedestrian movement to designated paths.
Encinitas awarded the dune construction contract to West-Tech, Inc., for $1,850,532 and signed a construction management agreement with GHD, Inc., for $180,698. The city’s matching grant contributions are “in kind,” Milligan said, through his and other employees’ labor on the project.
The Cardiff Beach Living Shoreline Project represents a collaborative effort between Encinitas, California State Coastal Conservancy, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, California Coastal Commission, California Department of Parks & Recreation and the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.