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Got sand? Dredging project in Newport Beach will add beach to shoreline

Newport Beach is getting a hot commodity for its shore: sand.

While some beach towns, especially in south Orange County, grapple with how to keep sand on their sections of coast, Newport Beach will be getting heaps to add between the West Newport rock jetties and on both sides of the Balboa Pier.

An estimated 30,000 cubic yards of sand will be dredged starting Sept. 28 from the nearby Santa Ana River, where the sand that has accumulated near the channel outlet needs to be removed for flood control maintenance.

“Removing the excess sand minimizes potential flood risks during rain events and also maintains the natural tidal flow with the adjacent Newport Shores marsh area,” an announcement by the city said. “Additionally, in coordination with the city of Newport Beach, crews will transport the removed sand to city beach areas that will benefit most from sand replenishment.”

The project requires large equipment on the beach, so some sections will be closed to the public. Signs will be posted and barriers will be in place where workers will be transporting sand through November. The work is typically done this time of year before storm season to prevent potential water flow blockages, officials said.

Dredging sand from the Santa Ana River, which brings urban runoff from inland cities into the ocean, has been a topic of debate in past year. Some residents have been concerned about the quality of the unfiltered sand being put on the beach and reaching the ocean, while surfers worry the sand placement will negatively impact waves.

“The city is very much involved with  the county dredging of the river jetty. City Public Works staff are overseeing the county’s efforts from the engineering side,” Councilwoman Diane Dixon said in an e-mail. “The city will also have an assigned inspector and also lifeguard staff involved monitoring the surf before and after their efforts.

“Importantly, the city has strategically designed where the placement of the sand is being done,” she said, “to enhance the surf and protect our beaches and property from future flooding.”

A worker watches surfers near 45th Street as trucks haul sand to the area from a dredging project in Newport Beach, CA on Monday, September 30, 2019.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Newport Beach has a long history of sand management, dating back to the 1960s when the rock jetties – which stick out like fingers toward the ocean – were put in along West Newport when heavy storms threatened to destroy beachfront homes.

Those types of mitigation efforts for areas such as South County that are sand starved, including parts of Laguna Beach, Capistrano Beach and San Clemente, are unlikely as the California Coastal Commission has clamped down in recent years on activities that can change natural sand movement.

Adding rock boulders – often called hard armoring – at beaches is a controversial method because, while it may protect infrastructure, it can potentially create more sand loss.

But as sea level rises, along with more developments in the inland watershed that cuts off sand supply that normally would flow to the beach, some sand-depleted beaches continue to struggle, an issue that can impact not only beachfront homes and infrastructure but tourism as sand space becomes in short supply.

At Capistrano Beach, wedged between Doheny and San Clemente, the county is grappling with how to keep the ocean at bay – a series of storms in recent years have destroyed a popular basketball court, beach bathrooms and a walkway.

As seen in nearby San Clemente, sand mitigation can be a lengthy – and expensive – project. The small coastal town has been working on trying to secure more sand for about two decades, receiving a boost earlier this year with $505,000 in federal funding.

The funds were earmarked for designing the San Clemente Shoreline Project, which includes securing environmental permits and two years of monitoring and environmental surveys.

The primary purpose of the San Clemente Shoreline Project is to provide protection for the Los Angeles–San Diego–San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor, creating a buffer of sand for tracks that run along the San Clemente coast.

The project, with an estimated total cost of about $11 million, has been in the works since 1999. It calls for federal money to cover about 65% of the funding, with the remainder, about $3.4 million, coming from the city. All but $600,000 of the city’s portion will be covered by state grants.

When finished, it would result in about 251,000 cubic yards of sand being placed from Linda Lane Beach to T-street Beach south of the pier.

The sand stockpile will be dredged from Oceanside and a barge will haul it up to San Clemente.

Source: Orange County Register

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