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Program planned to monitor surf spots for 2 years

COAST CITIES — With a blessing from the California Coastal Commission and San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, the San Diego Surfrider Foundation will monitor a half dozen popular surf spots to assess any impact from added sand.

By the end of this month cameras should be installed at six locations — all but one in North County — to monitor activity as part of the second regional beach sand project, or RBSP II.

“As part of our comments on regional beach sand project two, the Coastal Commission agreed with us that surf-spot monitoring would be ideal with this large-scale beach nourishment,” said Julia Chunn-Heer, campaign coordinator for the local Surfrider chapter.

“They are requiring that it be reported as part of the replenishment project but they tasked Surfrider with creating the monitoring and compiling the study,” she said. “We decided if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right, and that’s when we reached out to CoastalCOMS to find a scientific way to study impacts to surfing.”

CoastalCOMS is a 7-year-old company founded in Australia that uses camera networks for coastal monitoring solutions by analyzing environmental variables and their impacts to surfing over time.

“We’ve done this a lot,” co-owner Tim Chandler said during a presentation at the Jan. 11 Solana Beach City Council meeting, adding that the company has video archives throughout the world in areas such as Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Texas, Florida, California and Hawaii.

The company has had its results published in scientific journals and representatives give presentations regularly at ocean conferences, Chandler said.

“We’re hoping to sort of put a toe in the water with this and give a few measurements but then also have a good baseline understanding of what you might be able to do with some of the infrastructure that’s already in place on the California coastline,” he said.

Cameras are set to be installed at Imperial Beach, Fletcher Cove and Seaside Reef in Solana Beach, Cardiff Reef and D Street in Encinitas and Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad.

The goal is to provide an assessment of county surf spots — primarily ones close to RBSP II receiver sites — and track their response to the influx of sand from the replenishment project set to take place April 1.

Surfrider also hopes to replace anecdotal evidence, which is often unreliable because of the wide range of surfing skill and experience of those reporting it, with observations from a consistent framework of surf-spot monitoring, Chunn-Heer said.

There are five objectives of the two-year study. The first is to establish baseline data for surf quality and usable beach at surf spots throughout the county, with special focus on spots near RBSP II receiver beaches.

The second is to daily observe surf quality parameters and surfer counts. The study also hopes to track changes in surf quality and surfability, assess changes in beach width and shoreline position and create a video archive.

Trained volunteers will take measurements and create daily logs to measure parameters that can’t be recorded automatically, such as surfer count, Chunn-Heer said.

The main parameters that will be measured by CoastalCOMS are break zone detection, which gives an indication of how the break zone changes over time, and breaking wave heights.

In each detected break zone the system detects breaking waves over a specified period of time. Metrics reported include the break zone period and maximum, minimum and average wave height.

The monitoring study will also provide one portal to tie together information from other sources such as buoys and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Chunn-Heer said the goal is to install the cameras by the end of January to get as much baseline data as possible before the sand replenishment begins.

Surfrider will compile and analyze all data collected and provide it to SANDAG. Data from the cameras can also be used to establish information about the coast as it pertains to other projects and climate change, Chunn-Heer said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mayor Joe Kellejian said. “It’s wonderful for the future.

“This would have been nice to have one or two years prior to this to be able to judge what’s really happening with our coastline but we haven’t,” he said. “We can’t look back and so let’s move ahead.”

1 comment

Mark January 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

What a great idea! Good for you Surfrider, for stepping up to protect our beaches and waves.

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