The Coast News Group
Buccaneer Beach left completely without sand in 2021. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Buccaneer Beach left completely without sand in 2021. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Oceanside seeks ‘innovative’ designs for sand retention project

OCEANSIDE – The city continues its search for a sand replenishment source paired with a retention structure, a project made controversial due to the potential use of groins or other similar hard structures.

While groins — perpendicular structures extending into the water from shore to maintain updrift beaches and restrict longshore sediment transport — were not completely eliminated from the second phase of the project, they are an unlikely design solution, staff said, due to their tendency to deplete the sand supply to beaches immediately downdrift.

The Oceanside City Council granted the staff’s recommendation to pay GHD Inc. nearly $2.6 million from its American Rescue Plan Act funds for consultant services supporting the second phase of the Sand Nourishment and Retention Project on Jan. 25. 

GHD will be working with city staff and sub-consultant Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which is providing base monitoring assessments of sand levels through the citizen science partnership with Save Oceanside Sand, a local group of beach and sand restoration advocates. 

Two other sub-consultants include Moffatt and Nichol, a coastal engineering firm, and Resilient Cities Catalyst, a nonprofit helping the city with public outreach and curating a design competition inviting firms to create sand-nourishing and retaining structures, such as groins, artificial reefs or something else.

The design competition will bring three different potential solutions to the City Council for a final decision by the end of this year.

During phase two, staff will also develop an environmental impact report and seek permits from the California Coastal Commission, the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project. 

The project took a controversial turn during the first phase in 2021 when the City Council moved forward on a pilot program that would have tested a groin and sand bypass system. The plan promptly received pushback from organizations Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club, as well as from Oceanside’s municipal neighbors to the south

City staff noted that while the project doesn’t completely eliminate groins from the picture, the consultant isn’t pushing the use of groins either.

“If you read GHD’s proposal for phase two, groins are not mentioned once. The idea is to take a step back and look at more innovative solutions and bring those to the table,” said City Manager Jonathan Borrego. “I don’t expect a firm that is interested in doing a traditional groin project is going to fit that bill… From staff’s perspectives that’s not the direction that we see this project going.”

The public provided mixed views on the project at a Jan. 25 council meeting. While many spoke in support, others cited their concerns about groins not being completely eliminated as an option. 

Those opposed to groins were concerned about the potential blockage of sand flowing south to beaches in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar. 

Some also noted that the California Coastal Commission would likely deny a project with groins anyway. 

“It doesn’t give you the right to spend taxpayer money on hard structures that won’t pass,” said Sheri Mackin. 

Mayor Esther Sanchez has also remained staunchly opposed to the use of groins but in favor of replenishing the beaches with more sand. She voted in support of the overall project but noted she would continue to reject groins as an option. 

Oceanside has an 80-year history of sand erosion resulting from the construction of the Camp Pendleton boat basin during World War II and the city’s small craft harbor in 1963. Since the harbor’s construction, more than 20 million cubic yards of sand have been placed on Oceanside’s beaches to restore the shoreline. 

Despite efforts to replenish the city’s beaches with sand from the harbor during its annual dredging process, most of that replacement sand is swiftly washed away.

“To keep just dumping sand on the beach and hoping for a different result is, to me, the definition of insanity,” said Councilmember Peter Weiss.

The city also hopes to find an alternative source of sand beside the harbor during phase two, as well as a retaining structure to keep the sand in place.

“The sand that we place needs to be retained because sand is a finite resource,” said Oceanside Coastal Zone Administrator Jayme Timberlake. 

Timberlake previously served as the coastal zone administrator for Encinitas. During her time there, she worked on the Cardiff Living Shoreline Project, a project that constructed sand dunes from annual dredging and the San Elijo Lagoon Restoration Project on top of an engineered, 20-foot-deep revetment that spans a mile along the coast. 

Timberlake noted that such a project could only happen along Oceanside’s remaining sandy beaches, which excludes everything south of Wisconsin Street.