Surfrider report: California coastal management gets high marks, still needs work to face rising sea-level threats
2018-12-13 | Orange County Register
The "2018 State of the Beach Report Card" released Thursday by
The report is in its second year and grades 30 U.S. states and
Results from the report show that 23 out of 31 states are performing at adequate-to-poor levels.
About 40 percent of the nation lives along the country's coastlines and the ocean is an important revenue driver, contributing more than
"However, beaches are disappearing at an alarming rate, due to both shifting natural processes and human intervention," the report reads.
Coastal erosion causes approximately
The federal government spends about
"You can't fight the ocean, you can't fight Mother Nature," said
Rising seas are also expected to contribute to the loss of coastal wetlands. Reduced by urbanization and development, more than 90 percent of the historic wetlands north and south of the
"There is an immense risk to them," Sekich-Quinn said, adding that a 2018 study by
In some areas, like
Surfrider points to a 2017 report by the
Armoring not a long-term solution
Armoring, or installing riprap boulders to protect against waves, is an increasingly common approach to threatened areas.
About a week ago, workers added 1,000 tons of rocks to Capo Beach where a wooden walkway and sea wall crumbled from an ocean battering during a medium-size swell.
Instead, Surfrider argues, planners should be looking at long-term strategies that include: wetland restoration, managed retreat, retrofitting infrastructure and incentives to property owners to avoid armoring.
Many temporary, emergency armoring projects end up staying in place long-term, causing even more damage as cliffs aren't allowed to naturally replenish beaches, the rocks acting like a buffer and causing even more damage over time.
At San Onofre State Beach, where a dirt road was nearly washed away during storms two years ago a temporary fix of 900 tons of rock remains as the state seeks an extension to keep the rocks in place.
Nearby, riprap armor is needed to support an eroding cliff below the
"We should be seeing a slowing down on administering emergency permits, and that's not the case," said Sekich-Quinn. "Some of those promises have been reneged on. These temporary sea walls become permanent. It exacerbates erosion."
At Broad Beach in
"Those areas will continue to see erosion. Eventually, they will lose their beach," Sekich-Quinn said.
More needs to be done to examine "resilient relocation," another term for "managed retreat."
"This is the million-dollar question that urban planners and engineers are grappling with," she said. "We're facing these problems for the first time and it will only get worse."
One city taking a proactive approach is
Coastal watchers will be keeping their eyes on the beach in upcoming months.
With early signs of El Niño approaching -- which can stir up more frequent swells -- combined with sea-level increases and winter king tides, there could be problems heading our way.
"It's going to be problematic for the entire
On the other hand,
"It's widely recognized around the world," she said. "We owe a lot of our high marks and beautiful scenery to the Coastal Act."
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Areas prone to hurricanes need stronger policies and regulations to protect coastal resources and save taxpayers money when rebuilding, the report reads.
Many areas that are hit hard regularly by extreme weather lack solid coastal preservation and sea-level rise practices.
"Sea-level rise planning is an absolute must for all states," the report reads. "Now is the time for coastal states to proactively and strategically plan for sea-level rise to avoid the loss of beaches, homes, communities, public access, recreation and healthy ecosystems."
"To make matters worse, the state is 'sticking its head in the sand' about climate change," forcing local municipalities to work alone on sea-level rise planning according to the report.
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