Restoring eroding beaches with dredged sand from the sea floor could benefit beachgoers longing for a barefoot stroll and property owners worried about their homes, according to a plan being considered by the county Harbor District.
Area beaches, receding at the rate of seven to 15 inches a year, would get much needed sand under the proposal, while saving taxpayers a bundle by avoiding costly disposal of the dredge and the need to purchase new beach sand, officials said.
It’s a classic "kill two birds with one stone" scenario, according to Peter Grenell, county Harbor District general manager. The Harbor District, which must dredge Pillar Point to keep it navigable for ships from time to time, has hired a consultant to determine how much dredged sand should be scraped from the harbor floor and whether it can be used on Princeton beaches.
Grenell expects results from the study in the next two to four months, he said. A similar approach is used at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, where dredge is dumped near the Golden Gate Bridge, allowing the current to carry the sand to the beach, Chris Kern of the California Coastal Commission said.
Using the dredge for beach sand could save the district, taxpayers and Princeton property owners tens of thousands of dollars, said Grenell, who expects to have a better idea of the overall costs when the study is finished.
"The erosion is fairly severe and attacking the beach line," according to Julian McCurrach, chairman of the Princeton Citizens Advisory Committee, a local citizens group elected to represent the community. At high tide, the water comes right up to private property, preventing public access to the beach and cutting into homeowners’ backyards, McCurrach said.
The dredging proposal was one of three approaches considered, among them a cement seawall. Instead, local residents, with the support of the state Coastal Commission, have opted for the Pillar Point dredging plan. Large pipes, similar to sewer mains, would be buried beneath the beach and act as speed bumps, slowing the erosion of sand to the sea, officials said.
Coastal Commission officials believe the restoration, rather than the seawall, is the better plan. "The Coastal Commission is very supportive of using dredged sand from the harbor," Kern said. "That is always the case, generally speaking, because it would protect and even enhance public beach access."
The California Coastal Conservancy also appears to be on board. In the past, similar restoration projects have garnered grant funds from the conservancy when meeting state coastal trail requirements, said Dick Wayman, conservancy spokesman.