Coastal management is about maintaining balance in coastal communities. It is a process that takes into consideration many factors, including development, the biological environment, coastal commerce and recreation, hazardous weather impacts, aesthetics, quality of life, water quality, erosion, and more. The City of Encinitas’ coastal zone management program is dynamic and evolves through research, grants, projects and partnerships described herein. The City's coastal zone management program is designed to adapt to our changing conditions to maintain our coastline as a thriving ecological and recreational resource for generations to come. 

Three Ways the Community Can Assist the City with Building its Coastal Resiliency

Preparing for Sea Level Rise

Global sea level rise has been rising over the past century, and the rate has increased in recent decades.  In 2014, global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average – the highest annual average in the satellite records (1993-present).  Sea level continues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year. 

Higher sea levels mean that destructive storm surges push father inland than they once did, which also means more frequent nuisance flooding.  This is cause for concern along Coast Highway 101 and the Cardiff State Beach area. 

The two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion caused by warming of the ocean (since water expands as it warms) and increased melting of land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets.  The oceans are absorbing more than 90 percent of the increased atmospheric heat associated with emissions from human activity. 

Sea level rise at specific locations may be more or less than the global average due to local factors such as land subsidence from natural processes and withdrawal of groundwater and fossil fuels and changes in regional ocean currents.  Sea level for Southern California is measured using tide stations and satellite laser altimeters at Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) managed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at CDIP Homepage

Cardiff Beach Living Shoreline Project – Dune Restoration Project


The City of Encinitas, in partnership with the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, the California State Coastal Conservancy, and the California State Parks, recently completed the dune system on the seaward side of Highway 101 on Cardiff State Beach, known as the Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline Project. The dunes shall serve as a natural sea level rise (SLR) adaptation approach to protect a vulnerable segment of the roadway while providing native dune and improved wildlife habitat. 

Sand dunes are naturally and historically part of the Encinitas coastline. They provide a number of ecological and human benefits, including wildlife habitat for native and migrating species and landward protection from sea level rise and storm surge flooding. The shoreline now supports flowering native plant species with coastal dune plants beginning to take root.  It’s anticipated that the protected dunes will host endangered species, like the Snowy Plover, that depend on undisturbed sand for roosting habitat.

The project area spans 2,900 linear feet (about 0.5 mile) of shoreline, from the Chart House Restaurant to the north to just before the South Cardiff State Beach Parking Lot to the south. 

The State Coastal Conservancy, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Ocean Protection Council have provided the funds to provide an adaptation measure to reduce the potential impacts due to sea level rise while providing a multi-benefit of improving the native dune habitat. For more information on the conception of this project, please see this recent article published by the USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

Coastal Commission Sea Level Rise Guidance

The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance Document on August 12, 2015, with sea level rise science updates adopted on November 7, 2018.  The document is designed to advise on the preparations and the impacts of sea level rise to ensure a resilient coast for present and future generations.  The discusses how to apply the Coastal Act in the face of challenges presented by sea level rise through Local Coastal Programs (LCP) certifications and Coastal Development Permit (CDP) decisions. The CCC, under the guidance of this document, required sea level rise analysis on the following Capital Improvement Projects: Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline Project, Beacon Beach Rehabilitation Project, Moonlight Beach Marine Safety Tower and the Coast Highway 101 Sewer Pump Station. 

FEMA Mapping

The California Coastal Analysis and Mapping Project (CCAMP), completed in 2018 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was an extensive, fifteen-year undertaking involving detailed coastal engineering analysis and mapping of the Pacific Coast of California.  The results were used to create interactive and updated maps of the coastal flood risk and wave hazards for California coastline.  Key coastal processes such as dune erosion, wave setup, wave run-up, overtopping, overland wave propagation and evaluation of coastal structures were accounted for in determining new Base Flood Elevations (BFE). 

The coastal flooding risk analyses included determining coastal stillwater elevations (SWEL), wave setup, wave run-up, overtopping extent, storm-induced erosion, overland wave propagation, and impacts to coastal structures.  Total wave levels were determined for 50-, 20-, 10-, 4-, 2-, 1-, and 0.2 percent annual chance flood events based on extreme value analysis of a 50-year wave and water level hindcast.  These analyses were used to establish and/or revise the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), Base Flood Elevation (BFE), and hazard zones for coastal floodplain mapping. The Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) were updated according to the new flood data and mapping. The project also focused on community engagement and awareness by providing access to interactive flood maps and other flood risk products to the public.  

Adaptation Strategy Development Grant (NOAA)

The San Diego Climate Collaborative has also received a grant from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to coordinate the coastal communities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar and San Diego to provide new data on flood mapping, develop additional legal, economic and scientific expertise and help cities with outreach and communication.

Swami's State Marine Conservation Area

Marine Protected Areas are the oceanic equivalent of State and National Parks. They are scientifically proven to promote the restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity which help increase the resilience of oceans to pollution and climate change. The City of Encinitas is home to Swami’s State Marine Conservation area. This protected area sustains multiple habitats which include kelp forests, surf grass beds, and rock reefs which support a variety of fish and invertebrate species. During low tide, visitors can also observe tidepool dwellers such as anemones, brittle stars, sea hares, and octopi. To ensure the continued success of this ecosystem, take of all living marine resources is strictly prohibited EXCEPT the recreational take of finfish by hook-and-line from shore only and pelagic finfish including Pacific bonito and white seabass by spearfishing (CA Department of Parks and Recreation).