ENCINITAS — Area residents can expect dump trucks to continue hauling mounds of sandstone from the bluff to just south of South Ponto Beach for several more days as sand replenishment efforts enter their final week of operations.
After three weeks of continuous dumping, the project is close to reaching its goal of relocating 45,000 cubic yards of native Torrey sandstone from the bluff top to the Leucadia shoreline.
The sand replenishment program, which represents the first phase of the $110 million Encinitas Beach Hotel project, is scheduled to continue through the end of February.
Katherine Weldon, a GHD Group contractor for the sand replenishment project, spoke to the quality of sand being placed at South Ponto.
“I know we’ve had a lot of questions and concerns,” Weldon told The Coast News. “The sand has been tested by every agency — Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, California Coastal Commission — and all the agencies have approved it. This material is perfect Torrey sandstone.”
Weldon, who also serves as Coastal Zone Manager for the city of Encinitas, said that before actual hotel construction begins, work crews from Sierra Pacific West will dig two or three layers into the bluff to lay the groundwork for the hotel’s underground parking structure.
According to Weldon, prior to the replenishment process, the beach consisted of mostly exposed beach cobble.
Once the replenishment work is completed, the sand will help cover exposed rocks, widen the shoreline and improve the overall experience for a number of North County beaches, including Moonlight and Beacon’s.
“Basically, the city’s getting free sand,” Weldon said. “I was just doing the math in my head, if we multiply it by, say $10 per cubic yard, that’s $450,000 we’ve just placed on the beach for free.”
Assistant city manager Mark Delin said the city is thrilled to get the sand.
“Sand replenishment is one of our best tools for shore stabilization,” Delin said. “It’s really a wonderful thing.”
According to city staff, daily operations at the bluff have been relatively smooth, with the exception of a few complaints after small chunks of wood were discovered amongst piles of sand on the beach.
Several wooden stakes used to mark the project’s boundaries were dislodged in the excavation process, commingling with sand that was eventually placed on the beach, according to Delin.
“The contractor has been told to remove the stakes prior to excavation so they don’t end up on the beach,” Delin said. “There has been a change of practice so hopefully that is being implemented.”
Locals took to social media to express their concerns that the frequent dumping is turning Leucadia’s signature turquoise swells into chocolate-milk colored waves of silt and grit, deterring beachgoers from enjoying the water.
But Fred Sandquist, president of the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, believes the murky conditions are mostly due to increased sediment levels from adjacent Batiquitos Lagoon.
Sandquist told The Coast News that the discoloration near South Carlsbad State Beach is most likely the result of storm-water runoff and overflow from Encinitas and San Marcos’ creeks, following a prolonged storm system that brought record-setting rainfall across San Diego County.
“(The creeks) will put a lot of suspension particles in the ocean,” Sandquist said. “My guess is the murkiness is from all the rain we’ve had. The lagoon is usually very clear, but we were out there with a team and noticed that the water is brown, which is what you’d expect with the rain.”
Sandquist said that as relocated silt settles onto the shoreline, it can produce less-than-picturesque conditions that typically clears within a couple weeks.
Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation holds the open space and trail easement for South Ponto Beach property and reports any problems to the California Coastal Commission.