Sand shortage at 3 OC beaches prompts calls for replenishment program

A year after high surf led to flooding on the Balboa Peninsula, a sand shortage has officials in three Orange County cities calling for a replenishment program to help stave off rising seawater.

Video Transcript

- Well, you might not think so to look at it, but a couple of our beaches are actually facing a sand shortage. Yeah, not enough sand at the beach. Orange County reporter Tony Cabrera tells us where, what's causing the problem, and what they're trying to do about it.

TONY CABRERA: In Newport Beach last summer, high surf caused the streets of the Balboa Peninsula to flood with seawater. While climate change and the rising sea level could be to blame, another culprit is the lack of sand.

DIANE DIXON: If we had more sand, we would prevent the flooding regardless of how high the ocean or the sea eventually rises.

TONY CABRERA: Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach make up a 12 mile stretch that needs sand replenishment now that a program through the Army Corps of Engineers suddenly stopped more than 10 years ago. If it doesn't start back up again, this could be the new normal.

JIM MIRID: It'll go from just being a recreational and environmental concern, to a flooding and health and safety concern, and I think we're pretty close to that tipping point.

TONY CABRERA: Jim Mirid is the Environmental Services Manager for Huntington Beach. He took us to Bluff Top Park where erosion is getting pretty bad.

JIM MIRID: During high tide the water actually encroaches all the way up to the edge of the cliffs here.

TONY CABRERA: The additional sand acts as a natural buffer, and it's been brought in by the Army Corps since 1964 in response to flood control channels, which prevent the process from happening naturally. The federal government pays about 3/4 of the bill while local governments pay the rest. The Army Corps says they're ready to implement the project should federal funding be appropriated.

DIANE DIXON: The Army Corps on its own initiative said, we will make sure the sand gets replenished on the beaches continuously. And then it stopped. So we just want to bring it back to the way it was.

JIM MIRID: A little money that we put into the project could save millions of dollars in rehabilitation, and also issues related to flooding, and even a loss of life.

TONY CABRERA: The cities are hoping to draw state and federal attention to the issue urging leaders to work together in hopes of getting the project to move forward as it has in years past.