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Environmental Groups Question Plan to Protect Homes at Broad Beach

Groups ranging from Heal the Bay to the Surfrider Foundation raise concerns over plans to dredge sand off the coast and bury a rock barricade under a dune system to protect homes and septic tanks along Broad Beach in Malibu.

Several environmental groups asked for clarification during a public hearing last week on the impacts to the surf and wildlife in western Malibu from a project aimed at slowing erosion at Broad Beach.

“That does not echo what mother nature would have had there," said Nancy Hastings, a field coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, of the plans for a buried rock barricade, known as a revetment, under a dune system near the homes.

No State Lands commissioners were present at the public hearing at Malibu City Hall on an Analysis of Public Trust Resources and Values on Thursday for the project, which is expected to provide relief between 10 to 20 years for up to 114 threatened homes, spanning from Lechuza Point to Trancas Creek.

The plans call for dredging sand off the coast of Broad Beach from the Trancas deposit, which lies outside the littoral zone, which is closest to shore, said Dan Gira of AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, the consulting firm preparing the environmental documents for the project.

“We’re relatively confident it won’t actually affect the onshore beach areas or surf conditions," Gira said. 

The fine sand from the Trancas area would be used to create sand dunes, as wildlife habitat, and would be placed over an existing, emergency rock wall that was rushed into place several years ago to protect houses.

Plans also call for possible dredging in other locations with courser sand off Manhattan Beach, where the City Council has publicly opposed the project; off Dockweiler Beach near Marina Del Rey; and a regularly dredged area near Ventura Harbor.

About 500,000 cubic yards of sand would be scooped from a 27-acre, L-shape plot about a half-mile off Manhattan Beach, according to an initial analysis, which considered six sites off Manhattan Beach.

To get the sand to Broad Beach could take up to 500 barge trips and 270-small vessel trips, he said.

Other sources include a stockpile near Calleguas Creek in Ventura County. To move that sand would require 50,000 dump trucks to travel down Pacific Coast Highway to the site, according to Gira.

In the fall, the plans call for the use of large scrapers and earth movers or possibly trucks to move sand from the sand rich part of the beach back up to the west end, Gira said.

The public has until Nov. 16 to submit comments to the State Lands Commission, which will consider the project at its Dec. 5 meeting.

During public testimony, Hastings called the plan temporary.

"There has been a long history of managing the sand and managing the erosion at Broad Beach, in some cases, legally and illegally," Hastings said.

She pointed to lessons from Hurricane Sandy, where homeonwers are considering rebuilding or retreating from the coast. 

"Where retreat is not feasible, we do consider beach replenishment [on a case-by-case basis]," Hastings said. She asked that the project look to bolster threatened septic tanks by having homeowners switch to dry composting or waterless toilets.

Graham Hamilton of the Surfrider Foundation called into question the plans to take sand from off the deposit off Trancas.

"I’m wondering if taking sand out of the littoral zone will create a deficit of sand where it may be needed," Hamilton said.

He said the surfing at Zuma Beach and other areas in western Malibu are a resource for Malibu residents and visitors from the nearby valley.

“I think the reality is that beach replenishment are short sided solution to a problem that is only increasing,” he said.

A Manhattan Beach resident said he was concerned about plans to dredge sand from off his city's coastline.

"If we do Dockweiler this year, especially if we have weather events that are severe, you may be coming to Manhattan Beach and other beaches to get more sand," he said.

A representative from Heal the Bay expressed concern for wildlife living in the rocks and tide pools off Broad Beach that would be buried by imported sand, as well as whales and turtles that could get in the way of the barges.

Karen Martin, a Pepperdine University professor, outlined her questions about public beach access.

"As you heard, there is an issue of how many use this beach," Martin said. "On Broad Beach there are no restrooms, no lifeguards."

No Broad Beach homeowners spoke during the hearing, which lasted about an hour.

A series of El Nino storms in 1997-98 and other storms in 2007-08 caused serious erosion damage at the beach.

In 2010, the California Coastal Commission and the city of Malibu issued emergency permits to protect homes through the construction of a temporary emergency rock revetment, which replaced failing temporary sandbags.

Comments can be submitted by email -- put "Broad Beach Restoration Project Comments" in the subject line -- to Jason.Ramos@slc.ca.gov or by U.S. mail to: Jason Ramos, environmental scientist, California State Lands Commission, 100 Howe Ave., Suite 100-South, Sacramento, 95825.

-City News Service contributed some background on the Manhattan Beach plans to this report.

Sean Butler November 13, 2012 at 07:05 AM
Wake Up Malibu !!! The Broad beach Restoration Is a 5 year open contract to take sand onshore and offshore from PDS to westwards and the 5 outflows north of Zuma Creek ,with NO Marine Impact statement on the MPZ , In short Taking sand from a public beach to replenish the sand on a Private Beach that was bulldozed in 2005 to cause the erosion , how is the common welfare served here? Yes they razed 20 million of there own money. But at what cost to the rest of the community? This has been the plan from the very start, Google Broad Beach Restoration , They were out there today surveying the areas where they intend to take the sand from, The Impact on the Whales that use the shallows to scrape the barnacles off before they head north has not ben studied by an independent marine expert nor any of the teeming sea life that is a result of the MPZ . May I also say that I do rate Zuma as a World Class Break that will be destroyed by 5 years of scraping and dredging , The Entitlement of the home owners to destroy Zuma to enhance there own beach is just wrong, WAKE UP MALIBU !!!!
Cece Stein November 13, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Sean, I may not surf, but I know a lot about tides, beach breaks etc... because I live with a surfer. Lucky me that I get to the environmental education needed to exist in this town. That being said, the sand replenishement will not take public beach sand from PDS or Westward for the sake of private landowners at Broad Beach. Won't happen! Could you please explain how adding offshore sand deposits to a sandy beach break that used to have acres more sand can "Destroy" the sandy beach break of Zuma? Inland urbanization has slowly robbed Zuma of its once natural sand migration from the west. If nature can no longer bring in fresh sand, then why not let the rich waste there money on improving the chances of Zuma actually having a decent sand bar here and there. Dump a few boat loads of sand off of Trancas Point and watch the return of its once former deep dark sand sucking throaty barrels . We think the whole Broad Beach Replenishment Project is a stupid waste of money and energy for a temporary fix. Energy should be doubled down on taking down the Rindge Dam where a whole lot of sediment needs to be freed up to make its way to the coast and surf breaks in need of a fresh supply of cobble and sand.
Jessica E. Davis November 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I don't think I made the Surfrider Foundation's comments very clear in my story. They pointed to lessons from Superstorm Sandy, where homeowners are considering rebuilding or inland retreat. The only retreat Surfrider mentioned for Broad Beach was for septic tanks to be removed and replaced with alternatives, such as composting or waterless toilets.
Informed MB November 20, 2012 at 12:41 AM
The Broad Beach folks must first provide public access to the beach before they will get an ounce of sand. Get your sand from the Mojave desert, not offshore where there will be an adversed impact on the marine life. Don't upset the oceanic ecosystem. GO POUND SAND!!!
Terry November 20, 2012 at 01:07 AM
there is public access. there is not parking or bathrooms or county beach clean up. please dont confuse public access in a valid discussion about the preservation of our marine life. or the fact that tractors at zuma push the sand to try and protect attricion without any environmental guidance. the 2 issues should be seperate

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