Here's Why CA's Government Might Dump $100M+ Worth Of Boulders On San Clemente Beaches - Stab Mag

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The OCTA (Orange County Transportation Authority) has proposed funding a $100M+ project to line more "riprap" along southern San Clemente beaches. Photo: OC Register

Here’s Why CA’s Government Might Dump $100M+ Worth Of Boulders On San Clemente Beaches

The rocks could save the railway quickly, but at what cost?

elsewhere // May 2, 2024
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 2 minutes

You can find more information and sign the petition from “Bring Back Our Beaches” here.

Any photo comparison of San Clemente’s beaches from 10 years ago to now draws the usual cadre of dissenters asking things like: “Same tide?”, “same time of year?”, etc.

But perhaps the most practical gauge of sand levels is that, if we’re honest with ourselves, it just really seems like less sand. Anywhere south of T-Street is near-unsurfable without a healthy microdose of south swell and a low enough tide.

Why? The reasons are hotly debated — ranging from sea level rise to coastal urbanization to creek paving to all of the above. We actually did a deep-dive into this issue a few months ago that you can read here.

But apart from San Clemente surf spots flirting with extinction, the lack of sandy beaches also affects the railway that connects Orange County with San Diego, passing through San Clemente. When swells and high tides combine, the water reaches the tracks and supposedly renders them unusable until they can properly be repaired. These swell events have already caused 5 rail-line closures in San Clemente since 2021 and $37 million in emergency repairs.

“SaMe tIdE???!!!” Photo: Hugh Berenger

To remedy this issue, OCTA (Orange County Transportation Authority), which is a “joint powers authority” under the direction of the California state government, has proposed an “emergency measure” to invest another $100M+ in “rip-rap, walls, and revetment” — put simply, more boulders.

These added boulders would extend 50 feet further out toward the ocean than they already are at the beaches that are currently most affected by swell events — i.e. beaches with the least amount of sand.

The issue with this — SC locals contend — is that while this will solve the problem of rail-line closures in the short-term, it will further exacerbate erosion at these beaches and will end up stripping all remaining sand away, since sea walls cause backwash that just flushes sand and sends it right back out to sea, unable to re-settle in that area.

San Clemente locals argue that the money being allocated to fund this boulder drop should rather go to more “sand replenishment and retention” (dredging) efforts that they argue will lead to more sustainable, healthy beaches in the long term.

You can find more information and sign the petition from “Bring Back Our Beaches” here.

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