State of the Beach/State Reports/CA/Beach Fill

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State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"Policy Citation and Description

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, §13000-14000. California Coastal Commission (CCC) Regulations. Statewide CCC permit program for any development within the coastal zone. Development broadly defined as the . . . discharge or disposal of any dredged material; grading, removing, dredging, mining or extraction of any materials; change of density or intensity of use of land . . . The CCC favors beach nourishment to reduce shoreline recession rates, due to adverse impacts associated with large coastal protective structures.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 30233(b). California Coastal Act. Dredge spoils suitable for beach nourishment should be transported for such purposes to appropriate beaches or into suitable longshore current systems.

California Resources Agency’s Policy for Shoreline Erosion Protection. This policy is not a statewide policy, it is only applicable for those agencies that are part of the Resources Agency. Shoreline erosion protection projects should use non-structural solutions such as beach nourishment as the recommended alternative, or as part of the recommended alternative, unless it is not feasible. Beach nourishment is encouraged to protect against erosion when: (a) it does not conflict with significant living marine resources; (b) it will not result in adverse effects elsewhere on the coast; and (c) measures are included in the project to maintain the affected beaches in a nourished state.

Cal. Gov’t Code §66632. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). This statute gives the BCDC authority to review and issue permits for projects that will place fill, extract materials, or make any substantial change in use of any water, land, or structure, within the area of the Commission’s jurisdiction.

Related Policies

Near Shore Sand Mining Regulations

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 30233 (a)(6). California Coastal Act. Permits mineral extraction, including sand for restoring beaches, except in environmentally sensitive areas, providing there is no feasible less environmentally damaging alternative.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 30233 (a), (b). California Coastal Act. Dredging is permitted where there is no less environmentally damaging alternative and where mitigation measures have been provided to minimize adverse environmental effects. Dredge spoils suitable for beach replenishment should be transported for such purposes to appropriate beaches or into suitable longshore current systems.

California Resources Agency’s Policy for Shoreline Erosion Protection. This policy is not a statewide policy, it is only applicable for those agencies that are part of the Resources Agency. All dredged or excavation material removed within the coastal zone or nearshore waters, which is suitable in quantity, size, distribution and chemical constituency, is to be discharged (a) directly onto a natural beach in an appropriate manner for effective beach nourishment and in a manner to protect significant natural resources and the public use of such resources at those locations; or (b) when beach nourishment is not needed or appropriate at the time of dredging, the sand should be deposited at locations for eventual use for beach nourishment, provided that suitable locations are available and steps are taken to protect both significant natural resources and the public use of such resources at those locations.

Cal. Gov’t Code §66650. San Francisco Bay Plan, Part IV Development of the Bay and Shoreline - Dredging 1-11. These are the BCDC’s enforceable policies for permitting of dredging activities within the San Francisco Bay area.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

Yes, under land form alteration and habitat protection policies.

Dune Creation/Restoration Regulations

Yes, under land form alteration and habitat protection policies.

Public Access Regulations

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 30211. California Coastal Act. Development shall not interfere with the public's right of access to the sea where acquired through use or legislative authorization, including, but not limited to, the use of dry sand and rocky coastal beaches to the first line of terrestrial vegetation.

California Resources Agency’s Policy for Shoreline Erosion Protection. This policy is not a statewide policy, it is only applicable for those agencies that are part of the Resources Agency. Public access is provided to the shoreline areas where the erosion protection project is to be carried out unless the area is unsafe.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

There is no state funding program for beach nourishment. However, the State of California does fund beach nourishment projects on a case-by-case basis. Very few beach nourishment projects actually receive state funds, and the legislative procedure can take up to 18 months.

Cal. Harb. & Nav. Code §65-67.4 Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW). Administers "Shoreline Erosion Funds" which provides funds to state agencies and local governments for construction of shoreline protective devices and beach nourishment on public beaches and park lands.

Cal. Harb. & Nav. Code §65-67.4 Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR): Coastal Erosion Protection. a) Beach Nourishment Projects: Replenish, restore or renourish beachfronts. b) Shoreline Stabilization: DPR adopted the Coastal Erosion Policy to discourage armoring in state beachfront parks, avoid construction of new permanent facilities in areas subject to coastal erosion and to promote use of expendable or movable facilities in areas subject to erosion.

California Coastal Commission - Beach Sand Mitigation Fund. Permit conditions attached to the requests for shoreline armoring which require fees to go into a regional fund to pay for placement of sand on the beach within the same littoral cell area through offshore dredging or sand transport from inland sources. The program has limited funds that are for use as mitigation in the cell or sub-cell where the impacts occurred.

Amount of State Funding

Varies from year to year depending on the number of projects approved by the State legislature. Very few beach nourishment projects receive state funds.

Cost Share Requirements

CA Department of Boating and Waterways: Shoreline Erosion Funds - State 75%, Local 25%.

Department of Parks and Recreation: Coastal Erosion Protection. Joint Federal, State, and Local.

California Coastal Commission: Beach Sand Mitigation Program. There is no cost sharing component to this program. These funds must be used for an actual nourishment project, not for planning or design. They can be used for the local cost-share portion of a federal or state project."

General Description of Funding

Currently, the California’s shore protection program is operated through the California Department of Boating and Waterways (CDBW) which has dedicated funds from the state boating fuel tax. CDBW has taken the lead in funding beach fill projects, as well as helping to coordinate local, state, and federal efforts for coastal protection through the California Sediment Management Workgroup. Proposition 84, the Clean Water, Parks and Coastal Protection Act of 2006, was approved on the November 2006 ballot. The bill was designed to provide $540 million for the protection of beaches, bays and California’s coastal waters. Most of this money is likely to be used for environmentally related projects as well as projects focusing on water quality.

Potential local funding sources that are not yet widely used but are being evaluated include transient occupancy taxes, parking fees, sales taxes, property taxes, sediment impoundment fees, and property transfer taxes.

Additional Policy Considerations

California laws which guide beach fill include the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the California Coastal Act, and the McAteer Petris Act. CCC staff indicates that private property owners are permitted to use setbacks, relocation, fill, sand bags, geotubes, seawalls, and riprap revetments in response to coastal/beach erosion. However, beach fill is not typically used by homeowners.

The response to erosion damage to public property by public agencies may include the use of setbacks, relocation, fill, sandbags, geotubes, seawalls, and riprap revetments.[1]

For any erosion response installations below the mean high tide line, regulatory responsibility is with the CCC. For installations above the mean high tide line, where an accepted Local Coastal Program (LCP) is in place, primary regulatory responsibility for responses to coastal and beach erosion rests at the local level. Otherwise, the CCC has regulatory responsibility for these activities. Other state agencies that have some regulatory responsibility for beach-related activities include the State Lands Commission, Regional Water Quality Control Boards, and the State Department of Parks and Recreation. Besides the California Coastal Act, provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, CEQA, and NEPA, may also apply. Federal laws are administered by federal agencies such as the Corps Regulatory branch and the EPA.

According to CCC staff, beach fill projects in California are conducted at all levels of government, but most are sponsored at the county and city level. There have also been privately sponsored efforts in Solana Beach in San Diego County and in Seal Beach in Orange County, and several more have been proposed.[2]

There is no dedicated funding for beach fill in California. State funding of beach fill projects comes from a variety of programs and sources. Typically, funding is requested through the annual budget cycle for each project. However, in 2000 the legislature allocated $10 million in a general Public Beach Restoration Fund. California does not require that there be a federal funding partner. In some places in the state, funding is from private sources via a mitigation fund. State funding can only be applied towards public beaches with adequate public access.

Major erosion hazard response activities are funded by the Department of Boating and Waterways, State Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Transportation.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways is responsible for funding and designing the construction and improvement of boating facilities, beach erosion control, aquatic weed control, boating safety education, Clean Vessel Act grants, and supporting and training local boating law enforcement officers. The site has education materials for boater safety as well.

California Department of Boating and Waterways
2000 Evergreen, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95814-3888
(888) 326-2822

The objectives of their California Beach Restoration Study are to preserve and protect the California shoreline, minimize the economic losses caused by beach erosion, and maintain urgently needed recreational beach areas. This is being achieved by cosponsoring the construction of beach erosion control projects with local and federal agencies, improving present knowledge of oceanic forces, beach erosion and shoreline conditions, and using this knowledge to prevent future erosion.

The beach erosion control statutes, Sections 65 through 67.3 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, authorize the Department to study erosion problems; act as shore protection advisor to all agencies of government; and plan, design, and construct protective works when funds are provided by the Legislature. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1962, as amended, allows the Department to participate in beach erosion control projects undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition to construction projects, the Department sponsors research projects to further the knowledge and understanding of coastal processes and to enhance boating safety and access. One of these is Shoreline Erosion Assessment and Atlas of the San Diego Region.

According to the California Department of Boating and Waterways 1999 report The Fiscal Impacts of Beaches in California:

  • California ranks eighth in terms of Federal appropriations for shoreline protection, just ahead of Delaware. It receives just under $12,000 per mile of coastline compared with well over $800,000 for New York and New Jersey.
  • California receives less than one-tenth as much in federal appropriations as New York and New Jersey, which have much smaller coastlines and fewer miles of beaches.
  • While California receives twice as much in federal appropriations for shoreline protection as Delaware (the ninth largest recipient of federal funds), California's beaches generate 20 times more economic activity for the national economy, and roughly 20 times more tax revenues than Delaware's beaches. In other words, California generates 10 times more Federal tax dollars for every dollar in shoreline appropriations it receives than Delaware.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways published the California Beach Restoration Study in January 2002. This important document discusses:

  • Activities Undertaken Under the California Public Beach Restoration Act Program
  • Need for Continued Funding of the Public Beach Restoration Program
  • Effectiveness of the Program
  • Ways to Increase the Natural Sediment Supply

Released in September 2006 is a California Coastal Sediment Master Plan Status Report that documents the completed, on-going and future activities of the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup. The Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup is a collaborative of federal, state, and local agencies and non-governmental organizations working together to find solutions to California’s coastal sediment management needs on a regional, system-wide basis. The workgroup is co-chaired by the California Resources Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Additional status reports were issued in May 2009 and June 2012.

Funding for the Master Plan program was initiated by a $1,200,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Impact Assistance Program administered by the Resources Agency of California. Subsequent funding has been provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ($795,000) California Department of Boating and Waterways ($580,000), and the California State Coastal Conservancy ($20,000).

Comments on the documents produced by the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup can be submitted via links at the Workgroup's website. You can also sign up to be added to their mailing list on this website.

Littoral Cells, Sand Budgets, and Beaches: Understanding California's Shoreline by Kiki Patsch and Gary Griggs (October 2006) is a useful summary of coastal conditions in California that also contains a discussion of beach nourishment, including the nourishment history of individual littoral cells.

The following summary of management and funding for beach fill projects in California is an edited version of an article written by Kim Sterratt, California Department of Boating & Waterways (DBW) in the May 2007 newsletter of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association.

In 1999, the California Public Beach Restoration Act was passed and established a program to provide state funding assistance to local and regional governments for beach nourishment/restoration projects. Since public beaches are considered a statewide recreational, economic and environmental resource, they are eligible for state funding assistance.

If the shoreline is publicly owned and operated then the Public Beach Restoration Program (PBRP) may fund up to 85 percent of the costs to restore or renourish the beach. If the restoration site is a state beach operated and maintained by a local or regional public entity then the PBRP may fund up to 100 percent of the project costs. The Public Beach Restoration Act also mandates the active pursuit and promotion of federal and local partnerships to cost-share restoration activities that possess significant state benefits.

An additional program within the department, known as the Beach Erosion Control Program possesses similar general mandates; to independently or in cooperation with others, study, report, prepare plans and construct shore protection projects that are in the best interests of the state. The major difference is the PBRP has a more favorable local cost share formula while the Beach Erosion Control Program can be utilized to fund structural protective projects. Both programs work together to study shore processes and investigate the most cost effective means to manage erosion and to fund those projects deemed in the best interests of the state.

DBW cooperates with many public agencies from special district, cities, counties, regional agencies to other state and federal agencies. They are currently participating in investigations and studies of coastal processes with federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, USGS, MMS and other state agencies such as the state Coastal Conservancy, the California Coastal Commission, the California Resources Agency, the California Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University. Currently, they are involved with a multi-agency group called the California Sediment Management Workgroup with the task to establish California Sediment Master Plan to manage the beneficial reuse of dredged and excavated sediment along the California coast.


California has a long history of beach fill projects. The first known project occurred in 1919 at Newport Beach, and beach fill projects continue to be a popular method of shoreline maintenance. From 1930 to the present, over 100 million cubic meters of beach fill have been placed along California's beaches. Nearly all of California's beach fill projects have occurred in southern California. Northern California projects have occurred in Crescent City, Bolinas Bay, Ocean Beach (San Francisco), Seabright Beach (Santa Cruz Harbor), Twin Lakes Beach, Capitola, and Morro Bay.

A primary reason for extensive beach fill in Southern California is that the beaches in this region are naturally narrow. Even before extensive modification of the coastline and dam building, Southern California had narrow beaches that many people believed needed fill. In 1935, A.G. Johnson stated, "Studies of existing public beaches in Santa Monica Bay show that certain portions of the publicly owned beach frontage are too badly eroded to be of value as bathing beaches."[3] But it was not solely in response to this perceived need that the Santa Monica beaches were restored; they were restored because sand was available from onshore excavation projects.[4] Most beaches in the area are naturally narrow because waves erode beaches at a greater rate than rivers and bluffs can supply sand. It should also be noted that this is a long-term, cyclical system. In years of substantial rainfall, rivers contribute massive amounts of sand to the coastline. During drought years, the beach's sand supply dwindles and beaches narrow. Overall, in Southern California, beaches erode at a rate that prohibits them from naturally becoming the wide, sandy beaches seen on the East Coast.

The extensive modification of the coastline that started in the 1930s and continues today only exacerbates the problem of sand supply to Southern California beaches. The groins, jetties, breakwaters, and dams constructed to stabilize beaches and create harbors disrupt the natural flow of sand, and cause sand to accumulate up-drift of the structures and seriously erode along beaches down-drift of the structures. Every harbor in Southern California is man-made, and beaches down-drift of the harbors or down-drift of river jetties need significant fill and bypassed sediment to prevent serious erosion. These areas have become chronic fill projects. Examples include the Seal Beach and Surfside/Sunset Beach area (down-drift of Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbors and the San Gabriel River jetties) and Oceanside (down-drift of Oceanside Harbor). In fact, the only two areas that reportedly maintain relatively stable beach widths in Southern California are the Santa Monica area beaches (since their initial massive fill) and Coronado Beach.

Sources of information on the dynamics of Southern California's six littoral cells and beach fill projects include the following:

  • California Coastal Commission. Beach Erosion and Response Guidance Document. December 1999.
  • Leidersdorf, Craig, Ricky C. Hollar, and Gregory Woodell. Human Intervention with the Beaches of Santa Monica Bay, California, Shore & Beach 1994. Vol. 62. Issue 3. Pp. 29-38.
  • Reinhard E. Flick. The Myth and Reality of Southern California Beaches. Shore & Beach. July 1993. Vol. 61. Issue 3. Pp. 3-13.
  • Robert L. Wiegel. Ocean Beach Fill on the USA Pacific Coast. Shore & Beach. January 1994. Vol. 62. Issue 1. Pp. 11-36.
  • T.D. Clayton. Beach Replenishment Activities on the U.S. Continental Pacific Coast. Journal of Coastal Research. Fall 1991. Vol. 7. Issue 4. Pp. 1195-1210.
  • Department of Boating and Waterways and State Coastal Conservancy, California Beach Restoration Study. January 2002. See especially Chapter 6, Effectiveness of the Program.

Summary tables and other information on beach fill projects in California are available here on the website of the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup.

US Army Corps of Engineers conducting beach fill at Surfside-Sunset, CA
USACOE conducting beach fill in Oceanside, CA

The following beaches have been filled more than once over the last ten years:

Surfside-Sunset (every 5 to 7 years); Seal Beach; several San Diego beaches; Moonlight Beach in Encinitas (often filled during the summer); Ocean Beach, San Francisco; Santa Barbara Harbor (bypassing), Ventura Harbor (bypassing); Oceanside Harbor (bypassing); and Santa Cruz Harbor (bypassing).

According to CCC staff, an inventory of beach fill projects is contained in the Beach Erosion and Response (BEAR) guidance document, created by the BEAR task force, supplemented by Melanie Coyne for a NOAA Coastal Fellowship, and by other CCC staff. The California Department of Boating and Waterways has an unofficial inventory that was updated in September of 2001.[5]

The Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON) is a California Joint Powers agency established in 1992 to address coastal erosion, beach nourishment and clean oceans within the Central California Coast from Point Conception to Point Mugu. The member agencies of BEACON include the Counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura as well as the coastal cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme. BEACON has developed an extensive list of projects, several of which are underway. In November 2008 BEACON released the most comprehensive overview of the Santa Barbara/Ventura County coast to date. More info and a nice graphic of their recommendations.

In March 2011 BEACON released a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) for the Central Coast from Point Conception to Point Mugu. Surfrider Foundation comments on the draft PEIR can be found here.

There are several excellent reports published by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) about their fill efforts. SANDAG is the regional decision-making forum for the 18 cities and county government in the San Diego area. The SANDAG Board of Directors is composed of mayors, council members, and a supervisor from the region's 19 local governments.[6]

A major public works effort to restore beaches along sections of San Diego region coastline from Oceanside to Imperial Beach was carried out in 2001. The San Diego Regional Beach Sand Project started at Torrey Pines State Beach in April 2001, with another 11 beaches receiving more than 2 million cubic yards of clean, beach quality sand over about a six-month period. Sand was dredged from offshore and pumped onto beaches in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, San Diego, and Imperial Beach. This $17.5 million public works effort was coordinated through SANDAG. The beach sand project received funding from Congress through the U.S. Navy, and from the state legislature through the California Department of Boating and Waterways. This was the first regional beach restoration project undertaken on the West Coast. Further information on the project, including an assessment of the project's effectiveness and environmental impacts, can be found on SANDAG's website. This includes a description of the Regional Shoreline Monitoring Program and links to allow downloads of their Regional Beach Monitoring Program Annual Reports.

An update on SANDAG's plans regarding sediment management for the beaches of San Diego County was provided in their PowerPoint presentation San Diego Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan, June 12, 2008. The focus of this plan is to maximize beneficial use of dredged sediment and "opportunistic" beach fill programs to attempt to input as much sand to the county's beaches as possible, make up for existing sand deficits and attempt to maintain a long term sand budget equilibrium.

SANDAG's 2012 Regional Beach Sand Project placed 1.5 million cubic yards of sand on eight area beaches from Imperial Beach to Oceanside in September - December 2012. The SANDAG website has before and after photos and some videos showing conditions at the different project locations. The Imperial Beach portion of the project resulted in some unexpected flooding impacts.

Despite the fact that some locals question the need for it, the city of Imperial Beach has been working for several years on what could be the largest beach fill project on the West Coast. It is expected to cost more than $75 million from evaluation through design, construction, monitoring, and periodic replenishment over 50 years. It cost $1.79 million to evaluate the erosion and recommend a solution. Pre-construction, engineering and design cost $1.5 million, and initial construction is expected to cost $13.65 million. The city will pay about $1.75 million toward the costs. Monitoring and replenishment for 50 years will cost about $58.8 million. The federal government will cover half of the costs.

The Silver Strand Shoreline Renourishment Project was authorized in November 2007 in the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), but funds for the project were never appropriated. The project involves dredging sand from the coastal floor and depositing it along 7,100 feet of the Imperial Beach shoreline. It is expected that this will widen the beaches by about 105 feet. The Corps of Engineers will deposit an initial and unprecedented 1.6 million cubic yards of sand on the city's beach, then replenish the sand, probably about every 10 years, for 50 years.

In 2007 the California Department of Boating and Waterways was scheduled to embark on Stage 12 of the Surfside-Sunset Project with the USACE, the County of Orange, and the cities of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. This project has on average increased the width of beach over the 17-mile bight by approximately four feet per year over the past 40 years. A recent study indicated that over 75 percent of the sand placed in the system is still accountable in the sediment budget.

A different type of fill/restoration project at Surfers' Point, Ventura is precedent setting because it incorporates managed retreat and in the longer term, may include removing Matilija Dam to re-establish the natural supply of sediment to the area beaches. The first phase of the Surfers' Point project was approved by the Ventura City Council in August 2009 to relocate a decaying bike path and restore the beach near Surfers' Point and the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Construction of the initial $3 million phase, to be paid with one-time grants, could begin in November or December 2009. The restoration effort has been hailed as a model environmental approach to stabilize and restore 1,800 feet of beach near the fairgrounds. The project will relocate the bike and pedestrian trail and parking lot on the ocean side of Shoreline Drive about 65 feet inland toward the fairgrounds. Once the path and parking lot are relocated, several tons of cobblestone will be spread at water’s edge, adding to the rocky shoreline. Sand then would be laid over the cobblestones to help restore the area to a more natural beach habitat and prevent future erosion. More info.

Another precedent-setting and award-winning project that incorporated beach fill and managed retreat is one completed at Pacifica State Beach, located south of San Francisco. A presentation Managed Retreat and Realignment in California by Bob Battalio was given at the 2009 Headwaters to Ocean (H2O) Conference in Long Beach, CA. Both the Pacifica State Beach and Surfers' Point projects were covered in the presentation.

There was an experimental "indirect" beach fill project at Ocean Beach in San Francisco in 2005-2006. The Army Corps of Engineers created a sandbar about a half-mile offshore of Ocean Beach using the 300,000 cubic yards of sand it dredges each year from the shipping channel outside the Golden Gate. The sandbar tends to dissipate some of the destructive energy carried by the waves and provide sand to replenish what is washed off the beach. The Corps dropped about 275,000 cubic yards of sand in June 2005. It dumped another 300,000 cubic yards in May 2006. Tests show about half of the sand dispersed as expected. Better yet, the 1,000-meter stretch of coastline targeted in the test has accreted 1 meter.

A 'sand relocation' project was scheduled to begin at Ocean Beach in August 2012 that will deliver significant quantities of sand south of the Sloat area. About 100,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of sand will be excavated from the beach in front of the O'Shaughnessy seawall (Stairwells 1-21). The end result will be two separate large sand dunes on the beach, one covering the area just south of 1st parking lot and the other at the south end of 2nd lot. The dunes will be approximately 30-40 feet in width, effectively burying any rock or rubble in the area where they are placed. The project should also help to alleviate the problem of sand accumulation on the road and parking lots at the north end of Ocean Beach. The preliminary cost estimate is approximately $700,000. More info from SF Surfrider Chapter.

Beach fill project data is also compiled by the US Army Corps of Engineers for their projects, by various county and city agencies, and for the California Beach Restoration Study (January 2002).

Post-fill monitoring is typically a permit requirement for the local sponsor. However, the state does not monitor beach fill projects for performance. The State does not distinguish between "successful" and "unsuccessful" fill projects. There are no established criteria for success. Generally speaking, any addition to the sediment budget is considered a success.[7]

A monitoring plan is developed for each project, which considers the important resources in each area. For example, in San Diego some of the monitoring looked at whether the fill material was causing an increase in the frequency of dredging for downcoast inlets and lagoons. Other areas use monitoring to examine the long-term stability of the project; to develop re-fill frequencies; to determine turbidity or habitat impacts, etc. Normally the project applicant will hire qualified professional to do the monitoring. The state may have the opportunity to approve the professionals. The Coastal Commission does not do monitoring; other agencies or departments may do some monitoring especially if it relates to projects they have undertaken.[8]

Regional Sediment Management

The state does not have a long-term beach fill plan. However, the Interagency Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup is developing a Master Plan for Comprehensive Regional Sediment Management (RSM). It will identify beach erosion problems and opportunities for fill with regional benefits. The Resources Agency has developed a coastal sediment master plan and an overall plan for long-term fill is one of the planned products of this study and work effort. The intent of the plan is to ensure that State funds are spent most effectively.[9]

The Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup (CSMW) website consolidates information essential to people who are involved professionally or personally in sediment management. The website provides information on the various coastal sediment-related programs and projects of CSMW member agencies as well as meeting records and access to relevant documents. Visitors may also access detailed information on the "Sediment Master Plan" to coordinate beach nourishment and sediment management issues.

The CSMW is developing new GIS information to assist in regional coastal sediment management along the California coastline. One of the most current new layers takes an existing data table of historic beach nourishment projects and ties it to spatial locations for these projects. A table was developed by Melanie Coyne in 2000 while she was a NOAA fellow at the California Coastal Commission. She researched beach nourishment projects from the beginning of recorded history about these project types in California until 1995. The CSMW has added some information about projects that occurred since then, but the database is not considered complete at this time. The GIS layer is a line shapefile and can be viewed using ArcReader, ArcView 3x, or ArcGIS. It is in Teale Albers NAD 83 projection, and is best viewed with the California coastline as a background, or with a state outline as a background. The shapefile takes the beaches identified in the table, locates them in space, and attaches the data table to them. Click on a beach and you will see beach nourishment projects associated with that beach included in the table. Not all projects included precise spatial locations, so their location on the map is a generalization.

Coastal RSM Plans covering discrete coastal regions of California are critical to the development of CSMWs Sediment Master Plan. Stakeholder input from CSMWs outreach program indicates that significant differences between coastal regions require region-specific strategies to resolve sediment imbalance issues within that region. CSMW has therefore been working with regional partners to complete Coastal RSM Plans for specific portions of the coast, using littoral cells as the minimum planning unit. These regional strategies, once compiled, can then be weaved together to form the fabric of the state-wide approach to sediment management. Regional partners are essential, as they are best situated to develop local consensus on how to address coastal erosion through beneficial reuse of excess sediment, and to maintain a regional focus during implementation of Plan recommendations.

The Coastal RSM Plan program is meant to formulate strategies for RSM policy and guidance that will: restore, preserve and maintain coastal beaches and other critical areas of sediment deficit; sustain recreation and tourism; enhance public safety and access; restore coastal sandy habitats; and identify cost-effective solutions for restoration of areas impacted by excess sediment.

Each Coastal RSM Plan includes:

  • A recommended governance structure best suited to implement recommendations within the Plan;
  • An outreach program to insure participation by most stakeholders and the public;
  • An assessment of physical conditions (erosion, sedimentation, sand transport patterns, etc.) within the Plan boundary;
  • An economic analysis of benefits and costs associated with sediment management within the Plan area;
  • An assessment of the environmental conditions within the Plan area, including sensitive biota and habitats, and;
  • Geospatial data layers of gathered information suitable for inclusion in CSMWs geospatial database and WebMapper.

As of Summer 2013, CSMW and their regional partners had completed four Coastal RSM Plans, using general criteria prepared by CSMW as a starting point. Additional Coastal RSM Plans are under development for five additional segments of the California coastline, and a few more are under consideration if funds and regional partners become available. These coastal segments, CSMWs regional partners and Plan status include:

  • Southern Monterey Bay Littoral Cell (24MB) - The Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) completed CSMWs first Coastal RSM Plan, extending from Moss Landing south to Point Pinos, in November 2008
  • Santa Barbara Littoral Cell (3.5MB) - Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON) completed their Plan, covering Point Conception south to Point Mugu, in January 2009
  • San Diego County (7.4MB) - San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) completed their Plan, covering Oceanside south to the Mexico border, in April 2009
  • Orange County (11MB) - The County of Orange, Parks Department completed their Plan, covering the littoral cells within Orange County, in June 2013
  • Eureka Littoral Cell - The Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District is working with CSMW to update their draft Plan, covering the area from Trinidad Head south to False Cape
  • San Francisco Littoral Cell - The Association of Bay Area Governments is currently working to develop their Plan, covering the coastline from the Golden Gate Bridge to Pacifica
  • Los Angeles County (18MB) - CSMW is currently working with a consultant to gather data and help assemble the governance structure for the coastal area within LA County. A draft Coastal RSM Plan has been assembled and is currently under review.
  • San Francisco Central Bay – The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) is currently developing a Coastal RSM Plan for the central SF Bay to the Golden Gate
  • Santa Cruz Littoral Cell – CSMW is working to partner with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to conduct governance and outreach activities for the stretch of coast from Half Moon Bay to Moss Landing, while the physical, economic and environmental elements are being compiled by USACE in-house subject experts.
  • San Luis Obispo County – The San Luis Obispo Council Of Governments (SLOCOG) completed their Coastal RSM Plan for San Luis Obispo County in early 2016.
  • Marin and Sonoma County - CSMW is exploring sediment management options with county staff for the stretch of coast from Bolinas Bay to Jenner.

The joint effort between SCCWRP and the US Geological Survey's Marine and Coastal Division Assessment of Shoreline Change in the California Bight was noted above. As part of this project, an up-to-date beach fill database will be compiled to summarize where fill projects have occurred throughout the Southern California Bight. Beach fill is a common method used to manage shoreline erosion, and in Southern California many fill projects are conducted to dispose of inlet and harbor dredge. An accurate account of where fill has been conducted and the reason for fill - whether for erosion control or dredge disposal - will provide additional information about the extent of the beach erosion problem in Southern California.

While new projects are expensive and funding is hard to find, the state of California is activity pursuing sediment management efforts because various estimates and surveys place California annual beach attendance between 250 million to 600 million and a recent national study on recreation indicated that Californians utilize the beach at greater than twice the national average.

Information on beach fill in California is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect California's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $174 to $626 million.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Lesley Ewing
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 904-5291


  1. Surfrider Foundation 2002 State of the Beach Report, state survey response.
  2. Lesley Ewing, CCC. Surfrider State of the Beach survey response, January 2003.
  3. Flick, Reinhard E. "The Myth and Reality of Southern California Beaches." Shore & Beach. Vol. 61. Issue 3. Pp 3-13.
  4. Melanie Coyne, personal communication, February 2002.
  5. Surfrider Foundation 2002 and 2003 State of the Beach Report survey responses.
  6. Melanie Coyne, California State Coastal Conservancy, written correspondence. February 2002.
  7. Surfrider Foundation 2002 and 2003 State of the Beach Report survey responses.
  8. Surfrider Foundation 2002 and 2003 State of the Beach Report survey responses.
  9. Surfrider Foundation 2002 and 2003 State of the Beach Report survey responses.

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