Beacon’s Beach Stabilization Project on hold

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Plans to stabilize a cliff overlooking Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas have been put on hold.

The Encinitas City Council in early March opted to delay the project after receiving a letter from the California Coastal Commission, informing them that there’s still work to do.

City staff had proposed a contract, capped at $821,000, to a company called AECOM to design and obtain permits for the Beacon’s Beach Access Reconstruction Project.

The city wants to use erodible soil cement to stabilize the bluff.

Encinitas operates Beacon’s Beach under a 20-year agreement with California State Parks, which owns most of the beaches in North County. Beacon’s is officially known as Leucadia State Beach.

Back in 2001, a portion of the bluff collapsed, destroying a portion of the trail carved into the sandstone. State Parks subsequently awarded Encinitas a grant for $2.75 million to fix the problem.

In 2009 Encinitas proposed a sea wall, prompting the state to revoke the grant. In an October 2009 letter, state officials said the proposed stabilization plan was inconsistent with California environmental policies because it calls for building a sea wall.

At the time, then-Mayor Dan Dalager blasted state officials, saying, “This decision was made by some nameless, faceless bureaucrat upstairs who is more interested in being politically correct than serving the needs of the community. They said, basically: ‘We’re just going to watch it collapse.’”

Encinitas officials subsequently got the state to transfer the money to Moonlight Beach improvements. Meanwhile, city staff began studying alternatives to a sea wall to shore up the bluffs, which one state official called an “active landslide area.”

A study by the engineering firm URS analyzed six alternatives to stabilizing the bluffs. In early 2015, city staff came out in favor of the soil cement solution, despite feedback from California Coastal Commission staff that they’d be reluctant to support this approach.

The Coastal Commission later softened its stance, and in December 2015 even gave the city permission to put a sand berm at the bottom of the bluff to stabilize it in advance of El Nino.

City staff felt confident enough about the proposed solution that they brought it up before the Council, but just before the meeting the city received the letter from the Coastal Commission, saying additional work is still needed before the plan can be considered.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear in her March 12 newsletter wrote, “We were prepared to move forward with the contract for a stabilization project, but we received a last-minute letter from the Coastal Commission asking us to evaluate a different solution. Sigh… So we’re still in process, but not there yet.”

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