Joe Sullivan | Ocean Front
It is generally accepted science that global temperatures are rising, causing the polar ice caps to melt at a higher rate, leading to a measurable rise in sea level. Commentators have noted the survival of low-lying cities like New Orleans and Miami may be threatened by the end of this century. The controversy over how to amend Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program to account for sea level rise may put our small city on the same threatened list.
The California Coastal Commission (CCC), with the encouragement of the Surfrider Foundation and other advocacy groups, is pushing a strategy of “managed retreat,” which they maintain would save a walkable beach and improve surfing conditions in the face of sea level rise. While the CCC is short on specifics of “managed retreat,” staff has suggested that the first row of homes along Del Mar’s beach front with their existing seawalls should be removed to allow the beach to “naturally migrate.” This suggestion is made without consideration of cost and ignores the unique topography of Del Mar. Unlike other beach towns, such as Manhattan Beach or Carmel, the properties on our beach front are higher than the neighborhoods to the east. The 30-block, densely urbanized area landward is 6-14 feet below the beach front. This area includes approximately 400 homes, roads, utilities, the sewer pump station, rail tracks, and the busy Camino del Mar.
The City’s Sea Level Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), with the support of staff and consultants, has been studying this issue since July 2015 in preparation of an amendment to our Local Coastal Program. STAC evaluated the retreat option, determining it is too early to include retreat as an adaptation strategy for Del Mar. Instead, STAC is recommending planning for beach nourishment, sand retention, raising/improving sea walls and revetments, elevating structures, and relocating public infrastructure at risk. STAC adopted the report and sent it to the Planning Commission in February. At their February meeting the Planning Commission, after a robust public hearing, voted to recommend approval to the City Council.
Del Mar, under the guidance of STAC, now has consultants working on a Sediment Management Plan that will address the issues of natural sand loss on the beach, the potential effect of sea level rise, strategies for adding sand and sand retention. The goals are to limit the risk of flooding, maintain our beach for recreational use and economic benefit, and maintain the San Dieguito Lagoon habitat. A new community organization, the Del Mar Beach Preservation Coalition, has been organized to support these plans. See https://www.delmarbpc.org.
To review the STAC report and supporting documents see http://www.delmar.ca.us/sealevelrise.