Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Search for Solutions to Erosion Issues at Surfer's Beach

Photo of Surfer's Beach by Brian Overfelt

Efforts continue to find solutions to protect Surfer's Beach in Half Moon Bay, California. The construction of a breakwater to create the harbor in 1961 has exacerbated erosion rates by causing more sand to be deposited on the harbor side. Now only a thin strip of beach remains at Surfer’s Beach, limiting recreational uses of the beach, threatening habitat for the federally threatened western snowy plover, and eroding away the embankment of Highway 1.

Several possible solutions have been looked at, including building an artificial reef, poking a hole in the breakwater to see if circulation could be restored, building a small structure to trap sand and hall it away, and dredging. In order to discover whether any of these options would actually help the problem, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have first planned a study that takes into account all the factors that are causing the erosion. The impacts of these possible solutions have also yet to be assessed.

To establish baseline conditions for this study, the engineers partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to disperse tide gauges and buoys to collect information about the wind, waves, and water to help them understand the problem and how to solve it. The Corps of Engineers, in partnership with San Mateo County Harbor district, presented these baseline conditions at a recent public meeting on June 6, 2011 in order to gain local community and general public input on the problem.

The engineers will spend the summer analyzing data and calibrating a model of Surfer’s Beach, and then later this year will propose alternatives for the beach to the community.