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With over six miles of coastline, the beach is a way of life in the City of Encinitas. The Coastal Zone Program aims to responsibly manage these coastal resources to benefit our community, as well as local habitats. This branch deals with concerns regarding the environment, commerce, recreation, hazardous weather impacts, aesthetics, quality of life, water, erosion, and more. The dynamic and evolving program incorporates the latest research, grants, projects, and partnerships allowing adaptation to our changing conditions to maintain our coastline as a thriving ecological and recreational resource for generations to come.

Beach Outreach Program

The City's Coastal Program has launched a new Beach Outreach Program to better collaborate with locals and tourists alike regarding current and upcoming coastal projects. To learn more or to provide feedback, visit our Beach Outreach Program Feedback page.

Preparing for Sea Level Rise

Rising sea levels due to climate change pose a threat to coastal communities worldwide. The City aims to protect the community’s coastal infrastructure, recreational opportunities, and ecosystems by building coastal resilience through the following projects.

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 funding had been approved to allow the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach to begin pre-construction monitoring and design engineering for a large sand nourishment project aimed at enhancing coastal resiliency against storm damage and sea level rise. The San Diego County coastline is in a constant state of erosion, as natural sand processes have been interrupted by coastal and upland development, flood control, dams, harbors, and hard infrastructure along the shoreline, like seawalls, groins, rip-rap, and levees. This erosion is exacerbated by storm surge at high tide with additional effects from strong waves. In Encinitas, the impacts of this erosion are felt by narrowing beaches and wave encroachment on our bluffs, which threaten public and private infrastructure and beach safety. The primary goal of the Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project (Project) is to add sand to our eroding shoreline, with the aim of attenuating waves that further erode the coastal 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. Though the Project had been authorized by Congress since 2016, critical federal funding had not been allocated until early 2020. U.S. Rep. Mike Levin and Senator Dianne Feinstein along with the Encinitas and Solana Beach City Councils, 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.

Since April 2020, the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach have been working with the Army Corps (Los Angeles District) in the development of the Project Management Plan and the Design Agreement, which solidify our participation in the Project as the local sponsor. Additionally, the Project team has been developing the pre-construction monitoring plans. Initial monitoring for the Project will begin in fall 2021 and continue until fall 2022, and will entail studying:

· beach profiles and sand volumes

· surfing and wave characteristics where sand placement will occur

· physical conditions of the sand in the offshore borrow sites

· biological conditions of the nearshore reef and intertidal zone

These studies will 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.

Sand Compatibility and Opportunistic Use Program (SCOUP) 

SCOUP is part of a regional sediment management plan intended to streamline beach nourishment projects. The standardized permitting process facilitates the use of available sand from construction sites and other opportunistic sources. The program includes stringent environmental regulations to ensure that the sand sources are compatible with receiver sites. The timing and location of sand placement are also strictly controlled to reduce any negative impacts on coastal habitats and recreation. For more information on SCOUP visit SANDAG's Website.

The City of Encinitas has used beach nourishment for many years as a method of building coastal resilience. As of summer 2022, there are three potential SCOUP project locations at local beaches.

Past SCOUP Projects

  • 2019 Encinitas Beach Resort SCOUP project at South Ponto Beach
  • 2022 Caltrans Work Berm at San Elijo Lagoon SCOUP project at Cardiff State Beach and Moonlight Beach

Cardiff Beach Living Shoreline Project – Dune Restoration Project

Living Shoreline 2021Living Shorenline 2021 (2)

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 article published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

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). 

Grandview Beach CoastSnap Station Project 

In 2022, the city installed a coastsnap station along the grandview beach public stairwell accessway. this is a part of the coastsnap project, a global citizen science network program that encourages beachgoers to take pictures of the coastline at the same location to capture a valuable record of beach changes overtime. These photos are then put together to create time-lapse videos that capture the shoreline's position and beach width as it evolves overtime. This allows these changes to be visually observed and contributes to our understanding of coastal processes, such as coastal erosion, bluffs, and recovery cycles.  Track Grandview Beach’s shoreline changes yourself by following the project’s Instagram page @Encinitas_GrandviewCoastSnap.

Coastal Erosion & How We Manage It

Coastal erosion is a natural process that involves the steady removal of sediment and erosion of the shoreline. along coastal bluffs, the base is eroded until it can no longer support the above sediment, resulting in a bluff failure or collapse. This sediment then becomes a new source of sand for the underlying beach as the shoreline retreats. A less apparent cause for bluff failures are surface or subsurface waters traveling over or within the bluff, respectively. traveling surface waters can cause surface erosion that gouges the face along a bluff. subsurface waters will travel between the different layers of the sediment along a bluff, thereby adding more weight to the bluff itself, leading to its collapse.

This process has been exacerbated by the effects of climate change and the disturbance of sand sources. The rise in sea levels results in narrower beaches that allow for more wave energy to be exerted on coastal bluffs while the construction of dams along california has blocked vital river sediment from reaching the coast and nourishing our beaches. 

The consequences of coastal erosion are highly apparent in the community. Receding bluffs can cause instability to upland structures and the sporadic nature of bluff failures present a significant hazard to those below, including people and structures.

There are a number of management practices that can be implemented in response to coastal erosion. One of the most prominent types here is beach sand nourishment in which beach sand is transported from another source, either inland or dredged from a lagoon, harbor, or offshore, to a narrowing beach site of a compatible sand size. Another type we have implemented here is a soft shoreline stabilization method, such as the cardiff beach living shoreline project, where a design that incorporates natural materials in order to minimize any impacts to natural processes is constructed. Past practices have included the construction of hard shoreline structures, such as seawalls, bulkheads, and revetments, that prevent beach width erosion behind the structure, but intensify erosive wave action on the beach area in front of it. Other practices include the purposeful, coordinated movement of buildings and people away from the shoreline as it naturally shifts inlands.

Coastal Ecology and Conservation

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 tide pool 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).

Beacon's Beach Restoration 

Beacon's Beach Restoration is a current project that exemplifies the balance of habitat protection with recreational opportunities. The primary objective of the project is to stabilize the bluff using native vegetation to protect the access trail at this popular beach destination. The restoration of native plant species will have the twofold benefit of reducing bluff top erosion and increasing habitat area. The restoration plan includes a pilot project using washed up kelp to enhance natural dune formation. Long term monitoring plans include citizen science opportunities to increase engagement and stewardship in the community. for more details on this project, please see the Beacon’s Beach coastal bluff landscape restoration plan.

Grunion Run Anyone?

Mating GrunionGrunion run

The California Grunion is a thin silvery fish that is part of the new world silversides 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. Researchers 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

Grunion 2021 Schedule

Implications of Plastic for Our Beaches & Marine Environments

There are an estimated 51 trillion pieces of plastic pollution (2014), with approximately 12 million tones of plastic entering the ocean every year (2016). That is about 500 times the number of stars in our galaxy. Plastic that enters the ocean has severe consequences as marine animals will mistakenly ingest it, causing injury, suffocation, starvation, and death.

Both the creation and degradation of plastics involve the release of greenhouse gases that contribute to the issue of climate change. The degradation of large plastic debris into smaller pieces over time has led to the recent prominence of microplastics. These microscopic-sized  particles are becoming more prevalent as research is conducted on their pervasiveness and effects, especially within marine species and environments.

Both regular plastics and microplastics are easily consumed by marine organisms, where they then accumulate. When smaller organisms are consumed by larger organisms, the concentration of plastics within the tissues of the larger organism increases. This is a process called biomagnification, in which organisms higher up along the food chain (including humans) are more impacted by its effects.