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Surfers Beach

Surfer’s Beach Pilot Sand Replenishment Project:

Project Overview:

Surfer’s Beach, located in Half Moon Bay, CA., has suffered from significant beach and bluff erosion attributed, in large part, to the construction of the Pillar Point Harbor (PPH) East Breakwater, completed in 1961. This rapid erosion of the beach and bluffs extending south of the harbor has been a source of concern over the past several decades. A recent Army Corps of Engineers study concluded that the bluffs along Surfer’s Beach eroded at an average rate of 1.64 feet per year between 1993 and 2012. This erosion rate was approximately seven times higher than the rate of erosion at a geologically similar stretch of shoreline farther down the coast. Powerful storms during recent winter seasons have resulted in even more severe erosion, causing major threats to Highway 1, Mirada Road and other coastal infrastructure, and requiring emergency repairs by Caltrans and the County of San Mateo.

The need for a project to address the ongoing coastal erosion issues at Surfer’s Beach has been long recognized by local community members and many state, federal and local regulatory agencies. A local group has been active and vocal since at least 2009 regarding the surfer’s need to have safe access to the beach, and potential undermining of State Highway 1 has required placement of rip rap along the threatened stretch of highway. The Surfer’s Beach pilot project was a recommended activity in the Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan for the Santa Cruz Littoral Cell, developed for the California Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup (CSMW) by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with local stakeholders. Moreover, Surfer’s Beach (also known as El Granada County Beach) was identified as a Beach Erosion Concern Area within the CSMW’s California Beach Erosion Assessment Survey, which attempts to identify coastal erosion locations of high priority to jurisdictional agencies.

As of July 2017, the San Mateo County Harbor District (District) has obtained funding and initiated planning activities for the Surfer’s Beach Pilot Sand Replenishment Project (project) to protect and restore the shoreline at Surfer’s Beach. The project will result in beneficial re-use of clean (non-polluted) sand that has accumulated inside PPHs outer breakwater over the past half-century at the nearby beach (just outside of the breakwater). The project is necessary to reduce the threat of structural damage and recreation loss along Surfer’s Beach. Specific benefits include: preventing or mitigating beach erosion and sea cliff retreat; improving protection of Highway 1 and other structures; increasing quality and quantity of public access and recreation; reducing the need for hard structures (e.g. seawalls and revetments), and improving beach and wildlife habitat. This project will also address the issues associated with the shoaling that has occurred inside of the Harbor since the outer breakwater was constructed.

The Surfer’s Beach project is a pilot effort, meaning that a major objective is to closely study and monitor the project to assess its effectiveness and also to determine if there are any unacceptable environmental impacts. Assuming that post construction monitoring and review indicates that the Project is effective in mitigating erosion and does not cause unacceptable impacts, then a larger beach nourishment project would be pursued in the future. Currently however, a larger scale project, involving placement of dredged material below Mean High Water, could not be permitted under existing Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) regulations; therefore it is necessary to move forward with the proposed pilot project to address coastal erosion issues in the near-term. Monterey Bay and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries support the project and will play key advisory, review, and permitting roles in the planning and implementation of the Project.

The San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Harbor Commissioners recognized the potential benefits and unanimously approved this pilot project at the October 7, 2015 Board meeting. In February 2016, the District submitted a grant application to Division of Boating and Waterways for $800,000 to fund the Project implementation (construction and monitoring), which was approved in July 2017. The District also applied for and obtained funding through the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to cover a portion of the necessary planning, engineering and design, environmental studies, and regulatory compliance/permitting work. The OPC grant agreement was completed in July 2017 and work on the planning process began shortly thereafter.

For updates and additional information on this project, visit the San Mateo County Harbor District’s Surfer’s Beach Pilot Sand Replenishment Project webpage.