Truckloads of sand brought to San Clemente's North Beach in massive effort to counter erosion

Friday, December 2, 2016
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Truckloads of sand have been brought to San Clemente's North Beach in an effort to offset the effects of erosion.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- San Clemente's North Beach isn't what it once was - over the past few years, tides have slowly but steadily carried the sand out to sea.

But a massive effort has been launched to again make the beach sandy. Crews on Monday began delivering hundreds of truckloads of sand to the location.

"This particular beach historically used to be 40 feet deeper than it is now," said Aeryn Donnelly-Terrey, the city's park and environmental planner.

After years of erosion, cobblestones have replaced much of the sand.

"Living here over the years, the beaches have definitely changed," said Jade Scott.

"It will be nice to have less rocks and have more sand," said resident Tessa Engelsman.

"It's a beautiful beach", said Ann Nelson, who moved to San Clemente more than a year ago. "But without the sand it's all rocky and the kids can't play on it very well. I think (the new sand is) a good idea."

The beach was once a vibrant hangout.

"I remember growing up this was the spot to be," recalled David Adams, whose family has lived in the coastal city for generations.

City officials say lack of visitable beach has contributed to a drop in visitors to San Clemente -- 300,000 fewer tourists last year -- people they hope to lure back.

"It is amazing, the quality of sand is like sugar," said Donnelly-Terrey, as she let the new sand run threw her fingers.

The sand was dredged from the Santa Ana River channel. Orange County is offering it for free to cities willing to pay to move it. San Clemente is spending $626,000 to transport 12,000 cubic yards of sand to North Beach.

The last time sand was trucked in was 2005. Back then some complained that the 5,000 cubic yards of sand had too many tiny rocks. City officials have given assurances that will not be the case this time.

"We have two excavators up at the loading site and we have a conveyer belt set up to remove all the rock," said Donnelly-Terrey.

Some wonder if the sand will just end up being washed away by winter storms.

"It could move it all down again," said resident Mark Chemeleski. "Whichever way Mother Nature wants to put that sand."

City officials said during the winter months the new sand will stay pushed up toward the back of the beach to try to reduce erosion. But after winter has passed, crews plan to smooth out the sand to the lower part of the beach.

Work began this week from the north end of the beach to a concession stand. Officials said sand will be added to the area south of the stand. Crews are expected to finish by late next week.

The city has obtained a coastal development permit through the California Coastal Commission to receive up to 250,000 cubic yards of sand over the next five years.

Donnelly-Terrey said another project is planned to import another 200,000 cubic yards of sand to another San Clemente beach located between Linda Lane and the city pier. She said that project won't begin for another year or two.