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New film puts spotlight on San Clemente’s disappearing beaches

A newly released short film, “Running Out of Time: The Race to Save San Clemente’s Beaches” puts a spotlight on the quaint coastal town’s disappearing sand, and the consequences of losing its most precious resource.

A gathering marking its debut drew a mix of politicians and planners, residents, surfers and environmentalists to the Stance Headquarters in San Clemente on Thursday, June 1, with a panel discussion following the film’s premiere to address solutions and challenges the city faces as it tries to keep its coastline intact.

The goal of the film is to increase awareness and educate people about beach erosion and necessary solutions, said Jeff Berg, executive director of the project. The premier was also the launch of an advocacy group, “Bring Back Our Beaches,” and a website that will serve as a online community hub for information.

“The beach is a part of the fabric of this town, as are its connective tissues such as the pier, the Ocean Fest, junior guards, the beach trail, beach volleyball and surf competitions and on and on,” Berg said.

Human intervention, such as development and the concreting of channels, has caused some of the problems the community is facing, and human intervention can fix them, he said.

Another point that became clear while making the film, Berg said, was the economic benefits of the beach and how unrecognized and underfunded they are on the state and federal level.

A graph illustrated the amount the federal government spends on tourism: $12.50 per site visit for National Parks, $2.50 for recreational lakes and 4 cents on beaches.

“Travel and tourism is the third largest industry in the United States,” Berg said. “What do you think the No. 1 destination is for tourism? Beaches. We should be investing in beaches.”

Big-wave surfer Greg Long narrated the film, while surf journalist and filmmaker Sam George and longtime editor Dave Gilovich helped to produce the movie.

In the film, Long talked about growing up at San Clemente State Beach, where his father, Steve Long, was head lifeguard.

“These sands became a path that has taken me around the world to many different beaches,” Long said. “But it’s to this beach I’ve always returned and still call home today. The problem is, at the rate things are going, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do that.”

Much of the conversation during the gathering was about the need for sand replenishment.

Brett Sanders, a UCI professor of civil and environmental engineering, talked about the science of sand and how the area suffered from a tipping point during strong El Nino storms a few years ago when ocean levels rose several centimeters and the resulting erosion that was able to occur “led to a permanent decline of the beach width over time.”

Chris Webb, supervisory coastal scientist for environmental firm Moffatt & Nichol, said while the city is nearing the start of a long-awaited project to bring in 250,000 cubic yards, much more is needed, he said.



“In my opinion, the value of sand on the coast of California is more than the cost of gold,” he said.

Mayor Chris Duncan urged people to get involved in town halls and during the legislative decision-making process. Bringing sand to the beach has been done before, and it can be done again.

“This is not something we are powerless against,” he said, noting that the East Coast and federal government have been combating erosion for decades. “We have been spoiled, because we haven’t had to make those investments. But the roadmap is there. This isn’t like we are reinventing the wheel, we know how to do this.”

Just this week, two laws she proposed unanimously passed through the State Assembly relating to coastal erosion, said Assemblywoman Laurie Davies, who represents south Orange County and north San Diego.

One would grant the state Coastal Conservancy the authority to issue advanced grant payment funding for climate mitigation projects, while  the other calls for immediate surveying of the coast to determine the time sensitivity of each erosion prevention project, determining which beaches in the state have critically eroded shorelines.

Both still need Senate approval.

“If we do not get funding and the money we need, and we don’t have our beaches, we lose the economy here, which means the taxes don’t go to the state, which means they don’t get funding for their projects either,” Davies said. “So they are going to have the same concerns and we’ll get them behind us.”

Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley recently hosted tours with the public works department to search for sand in other places throughout the county, so it can be brought to the beach.

Cecilia Gallardo Daly, the city’s community development director, said she also hopes a partnership can be forged with the Orange County Transportation Authority to bring in sand, which will protect its railroad that runs right along the shore in parts of south OC.

“There’s this very big disparity of how we address coastal issues, when it compares to things like fire,” City Manager Andy Hall said, noting the state spends tens of thousands of millions dealing with wildfires. “On the coast, we’re being told, ‘You guys just need to move away.’ That’s just not acceptable to me. And yet, the most natural way to protect coastal communities, the way it’s been protected for all time, is sand. We have to take the same approach to sand as they are taking to fire and other environmental issues.”

To watch the film, go to:

Source: Orange County Register

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