Southern California could lose up to two-thirds of our beaches to sea level rise in the life span of our children if we don’t take increased, proactive steps now.
The state’s clear priority for coastal climate adaptation is to bio-mimic natural systems with resilient nature-based solutions, bolstering wetlands, restoring sandy beach and dune habitats and ecosystems, developing “living shorelines.” Nature-based solutions are effective tools available to protect, sustainably manage, and restore coastal ecosystems.
Using tools that nature already provides to enhance existing or manmade infrastructure will create enormous long-term economic, societal, and environmental benefits. What is the most critical resource to successfully implementing these strategies? Sand and sediment.
Sand is the foundation of the natural systems that replenish beaches. Tragically, the natural path sand historically took from mountains to beaches has been choked off in far too many watersheds. You may be surprised to learn that sand is a scarce and expensive resource, limited by development and infrastructure, climate change, and regulatory constraints.
Expanded regional planning, and increased financial investment, is essential to ensure adequate governance and implementation mechanisms are in place to develop the needed sediment supplies to support resilient coastal adaptation projects.
We are very appreciative of elected officials like Congressmembers Salad Carbajal and Julia Brownley, whose tireless advocating has resulted in long-term funding for the dredging of our local harbors, including the Channel Islands Harbor Sand Trap to support the nourishment of Hueneme Beach.
It is critical that state government officials acknowledge that successful implementation of nature-based solutions requires sand and sediment and provide the needed funding and support to Regional Sediment Management Programs, including BEACON’s Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan.
Progress on Regional Sediment Management has been severely hampered by inadequate funding and lack of sufficient government support from state and federal officials. Between 2009 and 2019, eleven Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plans were completed, but progress towards implementation has been uneven and incomplete in many regions and funding has been woefully inadequate to meet the need.
Without the needed investments now, our beaches along the California coastline will be drastically reduced. It is important that the crucial role of sediment be acknowledged in coastal Sea-Level Rise adaptation and that California’s regional sediment management programs be provided the policy and funding support that are needed to be successful.
Gregg Hart is the Chair of the Board of Directors of BEACON and a Santa Barbara County Supervisor and Carmen Ramirez is the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of BEACON and a Ventura County Supervisor.