How The Malibu Wall Went On The Endangered List
Boulders transported to “save” the wall on emergency orders, but is that the best solution?
This week crews for the Los Angeles Beaches and Harbors Department executed an emergency order to armor Surfrider Beach in Malibu. Hoping to save the iconic wall before beach erosion knocks it into the Pacific, tons of boulders and rocks have been deposited and semi-buried on the beach, yards from the waterline.
Local surfers, as well as some of its more notable regulars, were both outraged and baffled by the sudden action. Because it was considered an “emergency” order to protect a structure, normal permitting and regulatory protocol do not appear to have followed.
“They just showed up and started dumping rocks on the beach,” said Andy Lyon, who’s family has surfed Malibu for generations. “I don’t know what we’re going to do now.”
The stand-off between surfers and environmentalists in Malibu has been going on for years, and, as they say, it’s complicated. Wading into local Malibu politics is usually pretty polarized, especially when it comes to the Malibu Lagoon Restoration project and the subsequent protection of the nesting sites of the Western Snowy Plover. Looking at a satellite image of the area on Google Maps, it’s clear to see that the lagoon’s mouth is blocked and not allowing sediment to naturally flow out to the ocean. Because that stretch of sand is deemed environmentally sensitive due to the Plover, work crews are unable to dig a new channel for the lagoon.
“Even this winter with all of the rains, it barely trickled out,” continued Lyon.
Over the last several years the beach at Malibu has been steadily shrinking. Not only changing the flow of the coastline, but the wave itself has also morphed without a steady supply of new sand. Built in 1928, the same time as the Adamson House, the iconic Malibu wall is included in the National Historic Registry. The fear of the Beaches and Harbor Department was that a big swell event could topple the wall.
“The fix is so simple, but instead they dumped a bunch of rocks on the beach. What’s that going to do? That’s only going to make the problem worse,” said Joel Tudor when Stab caught up with him.
Beach erosion continues to be a huge issue facing some of surfing’s most hallowed haunts. To the south of Malibu, San Onofre, another one of the sites where California surf culture was born in the early 1900s, has also lost a tremendous amount of sand in recent years. The parking lot has been reinforced with boulders, and on high tides and big swells, the water hits the seawall of the defunct nuclear power plant. In Hawaii, the stretch from Sunset Beach to the Keiki Shorebreak has been eaten away, threatening the beachfront homes.
With hardly a blip, tons of rocks were just dumped on the beach at one of the most iconic surf spots in the world.
As surfers, the causes, impacts and solutions for beach erosion should be paramount on our radar.
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