The Coast News Group
Longtime surfer Rob Morton wonders where the beach has gone. Photo by Chris Ahrens

Where did the beach go?

Photos from the last century show cars driving on the beach, making their way from Torrey Pines all the way to Dana Point. There are also shots of cars racing five abreast on the beach in Oceanside.

While there is no photographic evidence to confirm this, I believe the surf was far better than it is now. I can imagine the mouth of the San Luis Rey River unobstructed by the Oceanside Harbor with a point break unrivaled this side of Malibu.

By the time I first surfed Oceanside Pier in 1962, wide, sandy beaches were a thing of the past. Housing was not yet being threatened by the ocean, but tourists, apparently the only consideration when contemplating spending tax dollars, were having their beach towels squeezed into smaller and smaller rectangles.

It’s easy to point the finger at global warming. Now, I am not denying that climate change may play a part, but there are other factors in play.  Factors that we can have a more direct effect upon. (Somebody kick that elephant to the other side of the room, please.) It seems obvious that much of the sand escaping the miners upriver is diverted offshore by Oceanside Harbor.

While some noble council members in the past have attempted to address the problem at its source, most continue suggesting we pump our sand onto our beaches at our expense.

Another idea that I like even less is building jetties. While obvious that dumping sand and building jetties can stabilize sand flow, neither idea considers the effect such interference will have on fishing or surfing conditions, activities that seem to have deteriorated significantly in recent years.

I grant that sometimes building jetties has the accidental effect of improving the surf as it has done in Newport and South Carlsbad, but it’s still a crapshoot, and crapshoots cost money. Our money.

In a fair world, the harbor would be dismantled stone by stone, and the sand mining companies would be sent to pound sand. With that being unlikely, we are left with two alternatives: let the beaches continue to erode or implore a human solution, like dumping sand, and hope that it sticks.

What if, however, we could protect the beach while improving fishing and surfing at the same time? Artificial reefs may be capable of accomplishing all of that.

We currently have the technology to build artificial reefs all up and down our coast. The reefs could be built on land, driven to the harbor, ferried to the desired location and anchored to bedrock. Once bolted in place, the reef could be adjusted to accommodate subtle or dramatic changes in swell direction.

Hey, the harbor isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the sand mining companies. With that in mind, it may be time to make moves of our own to enhance through innovation those things it has taken away from us.

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