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. 

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, the 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 farther 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

Dune Vegetation Dune Aerial

2020 winner of ASBPA Best Restored Beach Award!

The Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline is an innovative “green infrastructure” project featuring 2,900 ft of reconstructed dunes. Located on the seaward side of Highway 101 on Cardiff State Beach, the dune system protects a vulnerable segment of the roadway in addition to restoring natural habitat.   

The city chose to replace the existing cobble revetment with dunes which naturally occurred along the Encinitas coastline before urbanization. The dunes provide numerous ecological and human benefits including habitat for native species and protection from sea-level rise and storm surge flooding. The newly renovated shoreline can now support flowering native plants and other coastal dune species once again.  

The State Coastal Conservancy, the San Diego Association of Governments, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 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 also improving the native dune habitat. For more information on this project, please see this recent article published by the USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction (San Diego County) Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) announced in February 2020 that it had approved $400,000 in funding to allow the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach to begin initial planning and engineering for a project aimed at enhancing coastal and bluff resiliency against storm damage and sea-level rise. Bluffs in Encinitas and Solana Beach are eroding from damaging storm swells and rising sea levels, threatening lives, property, and infrastructure, including the railway corridor passing through both communities. The primary goal of the Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project (Project) is to add sand to narrowing and eroding beaches, with the aim of attenuating waves that erode the sea bluffs and providing more useable beach sand for safer beach conditions.

In Encinitas, the Project involves the construction of a 50-foot-wide beach fill along a 7,800 foot-long stretch of shoreline (from Beacons to Boneyards) using 340,000 cubic yards of compatible sand, with renourishment every 5 years on average over a 50-year period of federal participation. Though the Project had been authorized by Congress since 2016, critical federal funding had not yet been allocated until earlier this year. U.S. Rep. Mike Levin and Senator Dianne Feinstein along with concerned residents and city staff led a vigorous campaign to secure the funds from the Army Corps and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget over the past year.

In April 2020, the Army Corps (Los Angeles District) confirmed that funds had been received and that the Pre-Construction Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the Project had officially kicked off. Currently, the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach are working together with the Army Corps to develop a Project Management Plan and Design Agreement for the Project. Once completed and approved, the Project will begin the baseline condition monitoring phase of the Project. This initial monitoring will take place over the course of a year (2021-2022), and will entail surveying the physical (i.e. beach sand volume and offshore borrow pits) and biological (i.e. nearshore and intertidal reef) conditions within the Project area to determine a baseline that will be utilized by the cities and resource agencies to track any physical or biological changes seen over the life of the Project. Project construction is slated to begin in 2023.” 

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 the 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.  

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).

Grunion Run Anyone? 

Mating GrunionGrunionRun(1)

The California Grunion is a thin silvery fish that is part of the New World Silverstrides Family. They are known for their unique spawning process which occurs each year from March to September. During spawning events, known as Grunion Runs, masses of fish come ashore to lay their eggs in the wet sand. They are the only fish species to lay eggs completely out of the water. This unique ritual can create a magical spectacle with thousands of fish coming ashore at once. Runs are dependent on tide conditions and can be predicted years in advance. Although the exact population of grunion is unknown, a downward trend has been detected in recent years due to beach erosion, development, and pollution. Researches rely on observations from the community to help assess the health of the species. 


Get involved with citizen science, help a locally threatened species, and have fun by participating in a Grunion Run! See below for a comprehensive table of Grunion Run dates. The Grunion may show up at any sandy beach but Cardiff State Beach and Ponto State Beach have historically had the best turn out. Download a form and report observations at http://grunion.org/sighting.asp


* Where the run starts after midnight, the date of the previous evening is shown.

**Best runs generally occur on the 3rd or 4th night of the series