CARLSBAD, Calif. – Col. Kim Colloton, who assumes command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District tomorrow, visited Encinitas and Solana Beach on Tuesday in preparation for a July 30 study presentation to the Corps’ Civil Works Review Board in Washington, D.C.
“For her to be able to come here and become familiar with our beaches, to see firsthand what the issues are, what our concerns are and what the project really means to us, that means a lot,” said Mike Nichols, the mayor of Solana Beach.
What it means is that Colloton has established face-to-face contact with two Southern California towns whose shoreline integrity and long-term viability may depend significantly on the outcome of the board’s decision on whether to approve the study and forward it for state and agency reviews.
In the last 15 to 20 years, the Solana Beach-Encinitas shoreline has experience accelerated erosion of the beaches and coastal bluffs. As a result, when bluffs collapse because of direct wave attack, damages occur to bluff top structures, private structures and public infrastructure. The loss of beach has also severely degrades recreational opportunities, and the loss of beach combines with the undercutting bluff erosion to create dangerous overhangs, a serious public hazard.
Colloton will present the shoreline restoration study to the Review Board, a critical step in determining whether it advances to project status.
“The visit did just what it was supposed to do,” said Josephine Axt, chief of the district’s Planning Division. “It got Col. Colloton talking at length with the sponsors and the city managers from both cities, and she got to go out and, as they say, ‘touch the resource.’ We went to three access points, and she got to see the different ways bluff failures have been handled from 50 years ago when you didn’t have any regulations and you just had a cement wall, to what the Coastal Commission has recently permitted.”
“Letting her know what the local conditions are is very important,” said David Ott, the city manager for Solana Beach. “She’s going to be making the majority of the presentation at the board, so it’s a significant improvement over having to go by just a PowerPoint presentation without having the locals’ ideas of what that the issues really are.”
“It’s absolutely key that we have the relationships,” Colloton said about meeting the cities’ officials. “The teams are not just individual biologists and project managers, but the leaders of towns, like the mayors, because they’re the ones who are key. They represent those cities. They’re the ones taking calls on a daily basis from their citizens, directing the public safety teams to respond when there are those episodic failures where the bluffs collapse.”
“This is my first term on the city council, so for me, it’s great to get to talk to the colonel and the staff,” said Lisa Shaffer, deputy mayor of Encinitas. “I’ve received a lot of input from the community, and I feel reassured by the discussions we had on the flexibility and adaptive management approach that the Corps will be working with us on this project, so it makes feel much more comfortable with the relationship and prepared for the trip to DC.”
“(Elected officials) are key members of our team,” Colloton said. “They are our reach-out to the residents of their cities. They are the ones defending us, supporting us, helping to make the project what they know and what the residents want and know, to become part of their community.”
“This project isn’t just very important to Encinitas and Solana Beach, it’s important to the state of California,” Ott said. “The state’s very interested in this project, and the reason why is this is the poster child for sand replenishment projects on the West Coast.”
“It’s important,” Colloton said, “they see the results of a project to protect their shoreline and their coast, which is really their cities.”