Sediment Master Plan

Peninsula Beach Pre and Post Nourishment

California Coastal Sediment Master Plan

The California Coastal Sediment Management Master Plan ("Sediment Master Plan" or "SMP") is an ongoing, collaborative effort by CSMW to evaluate California's coastal sediment management needs and to promote regional, system-wide solutions. This integrated approach to sediment management enables agencies to work together to leverage financial and intellectual resources. By developing computer-based tools, informational documents, RSM strategies and extensive outreach, the Sediment Master Plan will provide coastal managers with information needed to address coastal erosion and excess sediment problems through beneficial reuse of sediment.

SMP Program Mission Statement

To identify and prioritize regional sediment management needs and opportunities along the California coast, provide this information to resource managers and the general public to assist in addressing coastal sediment management issues, and to develop strategies to facilitate sediment management activities. Such sediment-imbalance issues may include coastal erosion, environmental impacts, recreational opportunities, public access, dredging, wetland inundation,and sediment flow through coastal watersheds.

Regional Sediment Imbalance Problem Statement

Portions of California’s coastline are actively eroding often leading to economic losses, reduced recreational opportunities, and habitat destruction. California’s coastal beaches are a highly-valued resource, providing access to the open ocean, areas for recreation, and habitat for numerous coastal species.  In addition, beaches provide a buffer or transition zone between the ocean and the land, expanding and contracting over the seasons in response to waves and sand supply. Beaches require an ongoing source of sediment to maintain their width (and therefore protection), but many of California’s coastal beaches have lost width over time because of an inadequate natural supply of sediment. Human activities over the last 150 years have significantly reduced the natural supplies of sediment to the coast, as well as the transport of materials along the coast.  Dams block the transport of sediment through coastal streams and rivers and reduce the peak stream flows, which in turn reduces the downstream transport of desirable beach materials.  Major land development projects including roads, buildings or other impermeable surfaces, reduce the volume of sediment available for mobilization.  Mining of in-stream sand and gravel for commercial purposes removes that sediment from transport to the coast. Harbors trap sediment and maintenance operations modify the transport patterns through dredging and disposal practices.  Wetlands intercept sediment migrating coastwards, particularly when anthropogenic changes reduce the flow of water through those wetlands. Seawalls reduce the natural contribution of coastal bluffs and dunes directly to beach sediment.In some areas, sediment is either too abundant or is a construction by-product, such as from flood control maintenance projects, harbor expansion or maintenance projects, and coastal wetland restorations.

Most sediment supply-related problems can be associated with societal failure to recognize, communicate and implement regional (i.e., littoral cell) solutions to sediment-related projects. For instance, before RSM the approach to addressing sediment imbalances by state and federal agencies was project by project with a narrow focus on solving a very local problem.  Further, state and federal agencies would implement sediment projects in order to optimize cost benefit per individual project, rather than attempting to resolve the regional imbalance that was producing either the sediment excess or deficit.  This approach has also led to the unfortunate perception that coastal sediment is a waste product requiring disposal, rather than a potential beneficial resource. Our informational brochure, Why a SMP is Needed, describes in more detail, the sediment imbalance problem and how regional sediment management can provide cost-effective and ecologically benign solutions.

SMP Program Overview

In order to assist and guide sediment managers and others in implementing RSM throughout the California coast, the CSMW embarked on a multi-year effort to compile the SMP. Rather than develop a stand-alone and static document, the SMP is meant to be a dynamic effort comprised of several elements, and intended to be ever-changing in response to newly identified coastal management needs and issues along the CA coast. CSMW initially buoyed the initiation and continued evolution of the SMP program through development of technical, economic, ecological and public outreach informational documents, computer-based decision support tools (DSTs) for coastal managers, and a robust agency and public outreach program to inform and gather input regarding CSMWs process. This information is all available on this website, through our Library and/or specific webpages

Subsequently, potential strategies to address sediment imbalance issues identified within specific coastal regions were organized through the CSMW’s Coastal RSM Plan (CRSMP) program. These Plans compile physical, ecologic, economic, regulatory data and governance concerns, and provide strategies to address identified issues for consideration by the region. Such Plans have been prepared for discrete sections of coastline and watersheds, including:

  • San Diego County;
  • Orange County;
  • LA County;
  • Point Conception to Point Mugu (Santa Barbara Littoral Cell);
  • San Luis Obispo County;
  • Moss Landing to Point Pinos (Southern Monterey Bay);
  • Half Moon Bay to Moss Landing (Santa Cruz Littoral Cell);
  • Golden Gate to Pacifica (San Francisco Littoral Cell);
  • Central San Francisco Bay;
  •  Sonoma and Marin Counties; and,
  • Trinidad Head to False Cape (Eureka Littoral Cell).

More information on specific Plans are available on this website’s CRSMP page .

The SMP transitioned from the report and DST development phase into the current CRSMP program phase utilizing information obtained through agency and public outreach efforts, as well as through CSMW member agency’s staff contributions. As of July, 2017, almost 30 informational documents, four DSTs and nine CRSMPs have been completed, with the final two CRSMPs expected to be completed by or near the end of 2017.

The initial SMP Status Report 2006 describes CSMWs goals for the effort, priorities and future efforts. The SMP Status Report 2009 and Status Report 2012 update the baseline report and describes CSMW efforts at Plan development to that time. A SMP Summary report is expected by the end of 2017, and will address the work completed since the last status report.

SMP Program Objectives:

  • Promoting the use of RSM to address problems caused by sediment imbalances
  • Identifying and helping to prioritize critical areas of coastal erosion and sediment accretion
  • Fostering the beneficial use of sediment dredged from navigation channels, harbors, wetlands, and nearshore reservoirs, as well as that collected from inland sources
  • Encouraging cooperation between agencies involved in sediment management
  • Providing resource managers informational tools and techniques to assist their decision making
  • Developing adaptive regional plans to meet current and future needs of coastal sediment managers and to maintain consistency within those plans across coastal California
  • Demonstrating the value of sediment as a coastal resource for habitat, recreation, shoreline protection, and economics
  • Facilitating and coordinating beach and coastal watershed efforts with federal, state, local and public stakeholders
  • Supporting requests for funding from local and regional authorities and eliminating inefficient use of public funds, and
  • Supporting the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) in the implementation of their Strategic Plan;

Program goals have been achieved through:

  • Developing and maintaining a comprehensive CSMW website containing access to all information compiled by CSMW through the course of the SMP program
  • increasing agency and project coordination through CSMW meetings and by participating in other agency’s activities, as well as extensive public outreach;
  • developing a state-wide list of beach erosion areas that are of concern to resource, regulatory and jurisdictional agencies as well as potential sources of sediment to replace and/or restore lost sediment
  • making spatial data available through web-based mapping and geographic information system products;
  • an interactive database of coastal sediment and related reference
  • sand and mud budgets describing fate and transport of these materials along the California coast
  • incorporating RSM implementation needs into Marine Protected Area limitations and addressing issues related to the USEPAs “80/20” rule of thumb and beneficial reuse options
  • initiating a demonstration project documenting the transport of, and [lack of] impacts associated with placing less-than-optimum sediment on the beach nearshore
  • identifying governance and technical solutions appropriate for individual regions;
  • compiling guidance documents for navigating though environmental and regulatory review;
  • preparing a methodology for developing opportunistic sand programs;
  • developing Environmental Impact Statements and CEQA documents for sediment management activities
  • compiling regional economic studies assessing cost-benefit of potential sediment-related projects


Future Efforts

As of July, 2017, the current phase of the SMP program is nearly complete. USACE and CNRA/DBW current funding for the program is nearly depleted. CSMW is finalizing all Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plans; they and a Five-Year Status/ Final Report are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. Two CRSMP implementation/ecological assessment efforts are currently being implemented by CSMWs regional partners, and that work is expected to be completed by spring, 2018. 2018. CSMW co-chair agencies are currently investigating ways in which the CSMWs work can continue. The CSMWs efforts going forward will focus on implementation of the CRSMPs in coordination with regional partners, updating documents that have become outmoded, and continuing their state-federal-regional coordination on regional sediment management efforts for coastal California.