Save Coastal Cliffs

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New study changes the way we look at how beaches are formed...but is it too late?
By Patrick Zabrocki

68% -- that is the percentage of sand on San Diego beaches that comes from the erosion of coastal cliffs, according to new findings in coastal erosion research. Two separate studies, conducted to determine the exact origin of sand, came to the same conclusion and reversed traditional thinking how San Diego beaches are formed.
These findings are hugely significant in the struggle to keep seawalls from destroying the beaches. The results can definitively tell us the more people harden the coastline, the less beach we will have.
The studies were conducted by two separate research teams at UCSD. One study, conducted by graduate student Adam Young and engineering professor Scott Ashford, examined coastal formations for six years by using laser-imaging data from the 50 miles (80 km) of coast between Dana Point and La Jolla. According to this study, as much as 68% of the sand comes from coastal cliffs.
A second study, conducted by geology professor Neal Driscoll and graduate student Jennifer Haas, looked at the composition of the sand grains, or "sand fingerprint," and discovered that the majority of sand is of the same composition as sediment from coastal cliffs. This study says that approximately 50% of the sand is from coastal cliffs.

WHAT DO THE STUDIES MEAN?
The studies validate the one fact that environmental groups like the Surfrider Foundation have been trying to prove for years.

IN ORDER TO HAVE BIG, HEALTHY BEACHES AND WAVES, PEOPLE CANNOT CONTINUE TO CONSTRUCT ON THE COAST AND BUILD SEAWALLS.

Also, the politicians and lawmakers can use this information to make better decisions to protect the quality of our beaches and waves. An example of how politicians can implement the findings can be seen in Solana Beach, where a group of Solana Beach condominium owners have proposed a 35-foot concrete embankment. As a result of the proposed sea wall project, the developers might have to pay a $271,000 fee. The theory is that if seawalls have more impact on the size of the beach, developers should pay more to build seawalls.

CONTINUING TO ARMOR
Despite the new data, the Army Corps of Engineers are proposing to armor the entire Solana Beach and Encinitas shoreline excluding Swami's and Table Tops at the taxpayers' expense! They are also proposing the placement of dredged sand on the entire coastline. However, putting dredged sand on the beach is a human way of trying to fix a human problem, which costs a lot of money and will have to be repeated over time to keep beaches full of sand.
The potentially affected surf breaks and beaches in the area are too numerous to name but include: Swami's, D St. and Moonlight Beach, Beacon's, San Elijo Campgrounds and State Beach, Cardiff Reef and Cardiff State Beach, Seaside Reef, George's and South Cardiff State Beach, Table Tops, Fletcher Cove, Cherry Hill and Rockpile.
The issue of coastal development and the construction of seawalls is highly controversial because it involves complex science, it effects multi-million dollar property, lives of the people who stupidly decided to build (or buy) homes on the edges of cliffs, and it costs taxpayers a lot of money to deal with how to come up with a solution. Any time you have private property issues and public resources pitted against each other you have a lot of emotion. However, the data in the new studies can make decisions easier. They reveal that instead of the cliffs eroding, our beaches are disappearing because people build too close to the beach.

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The Surfrider Foundation has been involved in protecting the health and quality of our beaches for years and needs your help to continue. Visit www.surfridersd.org to find out more or at least become a member.


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