The City of Oceanside has taken action to design four 600 foot long groins and the City’s Public Works Director has publicly stated that this could be expanded into a 14 foot groin field in order to trap sand in the Southern portion of the City. Surfrider is opposing new groins in Oceanside for a number of critical reasons:

  1. Groins have a fatal design flaw – groins build up beaches by stopping sand in its tracks. They are naturally problematic in places like San Diego; where sand generally flows North to South from Dana Point down to Torrey Pines. Sand stopped in the Northern part of this region is likely to be sand robbed from the South, and the region as a whole is already experiencing sand loss that will continue to be accelerated by  sea level rise and erosion. The Cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach, just south of Oceanside, have already long been seeking additional sand and are currently embarking on a + $170 million beach nourishment effort to put more sand on their beaches beginning in 2022.
  2. Bad Precedent – Because groins are so problematic on a regional scale, the California Coastal Commission, the state agency which will have ultimate jurisdiction to approve and permit this type of project, has not approved a new groin in the state of California in more than two decades. As a 2019 San Diego Union Tribune article puts it, “The Coastal Commission generally frowns upon seawalls, revetments and groins. Numerous studies have shown the structures can contribute to erosion and cause more problems than they solve.” Unfortunately, groins target localized build-up of beaches and very quickly beget the need for more groins — even on the most recent Oceanside city workshop on the subject of a hypothetically approved groin, attendees asked how long it would be until a second groin might be permitted to benefit other local beaches. The unending need for more groins is a disastrous concept in San Diego where the general flow of sand from North to South spans six cities, which are not required to coordinate with one another on these types of sand decisions.
  3. Groins have other impacts – One big one in particular. Groins destroy waves. Yes – groins may also create waves that peel off the structure itself, but by interrupting sand dynamics so intensely, groins have unknown impacts to pre-existing waves. Groins have been known to destroy beach breaks (of which there are many in Oceanside,) which rely on particular sand arrangements on the ocean floor. 

Finally, groins won’t ultimately solve Oceanside’s complicated relationship with sand.  Like all cities in San Diego, the City is facing difficult conversations about how to address erosion and loss of beach access as sea levels rise. Oceanside has its own unique difficulties however, posed by the federally owned Del Mar Boat Basin and breakwater, which are considered prohibitively expensive to remove.  Coastal development in Oceanside has also long been too close to the ocean for beaches to thrive under even regular storm conditions, let alone rising seas. These problems are insurmountable in the face of the 1-3 feet of sea level rise expected by 2050 — The City has to start taking on difficult conversations about land use and relocation on the Coast. At best, these groins are a +$50 million short-term solution to build up one of the Southern Beaches in Oceanside for two decades (as estimated by the Sand Retention and Feasibility Study).

Surfrider recognizes that Oceanside’s current sand issues present a challenge to beach recreation and coastal access. We strongly encourage the City to begin addressing these issues in the long term through its Local Coastal Program Update, the planning process intended to prepare cities in California for sea level rise.  We also echo calls from the community in support of a Coastal Zone Administrator position within the City’s Planning Department that can support regional coordination on sand issues.

Join us in opposing groins in Oceanside by tuning into the City Council meeting on August 11, Agenda and Livestream link will be added here closer to that date.