Gary Griggs, Kiki Patsch, Charles Lester, and Ryan Anderson, 2020. “Groins, sand retention, and the future of Southern California’s beaches”, Shore & Beach 88(2), 14-36.
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Groins, sand retention, and the future of Southern California’s beaches
Gary Griggs (1), Kiki Patsch (2), Charles Lester (3), and Ryan Anderson (4)
1) Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, University of California Santa Cruz
2) Environmental Science and Resource Management Department, California State University Channel Islands
3) Ocean and Coastal Policy Center, University of California Santa Barbara
4) Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University
Beaches form a significant component of the economy, history, and culture of southern California. Yet both the construction of dams and debris basins in coastal watersheds and the armoring of eroding coastal cliffs and bluffs have reduced sand supply. Ultimately, most of this beach sand is permanently lost to the submarine canyons that intercept littoral drift moving along this intensively used shoreline. Each decade the volume of lost sand is enough to build a beach 100 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 20 miles long, or a continuous beach extending from Newport Bay to San Clemente. Sea-level rise will negatively impact the beaches of southern California further, specifically those with back beach barriers such as seawalls, revetments, homes, businesses, highways, or railroads.
Over 75% of the beaches in southern California are retained by structures, whether natural or artificial, and groin fields built decades ago have been important for local beach growth and stabilization efforts. While groins have been generally discouraged in recent decades in California, and there are important engineering and environmental considerations involved prior to any groin construction, the potential benefits are quite large for the intensively used beaches and growing population of southern California, particularly in light of predicted sea-level rise and public beach loss. All things considered, in many areas groins or groin fields may well meet the objectives of the California Coastal Act, which governs coastal land-use decisions. There are a number of shoreline areas in southern California where sand is in short supply, beaches are narrow, beach usage is high, and where sand retention structures could be used to widen or stabilize local beaches before sand is funneled offshore by submarine canyons intercepting littoral drift. Stabilizing and widening the beaches would add valuable recreational area, support beach ecology, provide a buffer for back beach infrastructure or development, and slow the impacts of a rising sea level.