Beach Bluff homes, lots of cracks near damaged railroad tracks in San Clemente – Orange County Register

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A crack in the community clubhouse parking lot has grown so large a foot can fit inside the split concrete.

Four homes in the community of Cyprus Shores, considered one of the most expensive coastal properties in southern Orange County, and a vacant lot also show growing cracks, made worse when massive waves hit the shore last week narrow below.

The waves also caused movement along the ocean-facing railroad tracks connecting the beach and the houses at the top of the cliff. The need for emergency stabilization caused rail traffic to suddenly stop, leaving commuters to find alternative transportation until October 3, probably.

Residents first noticed minor cracks last year at the clubhouse, used by everyone in the small community, and hired a geotechnical engineer to monitor the movements, said Jeffrey Beaumont, an attorney representing Cyprus Shores. Community Association.

But then, on September 10, it was noticed that the cracking had become more extensive, and last week it got even worse when the mega swell hit, he said.

Over the weekend, a boulder-filled freight train descended into the area, dumping large boulders, called riprap, onto the beach along the tracks as an emergency bandage to prevent the slope from slipping further into the ‘ocean.

It’s a seaside saga that’s happening more frequently in recent years – a growing problem as the sand shrinks and leaves less of a buffer between the ocean and infrastructure such as the coastal railroad, or even people’s homes.

  • Workers repair rail tracks deemed unusable due to ground movement in San Clemente, Calif., Monday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • A worker walks along a railroad track deemed unusable due to ground movement in San Clemente, Calif., Monday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Workers walk along a railroad track deemed unusable due to ground movement in San Clemente, Calif., Monday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Workers repair rail tracks deemed unusable due to ground movement in San Clemente, Calif., Monday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Workers repair rail tracks deemed unusable due to ground movement in San Clemente, Calif., Monday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Workers repair rail tracks deemed unusable due to ground movement in San Clemente, Calif., Monday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

A coastal enigma

Without a regular replenishment of sand to provide a buffer to hold back the ocean, damage to homes and infrastructure will become more frequent, said Brett Sanders, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine.

Last week’s storm was a typical southern hemisphere heavy swell, which can occur multiple times each summer. And the tides weren’t exceptionally high, unlike the high tides that occur during the winter months.

“Once the beaches are gone, we quickly see damaging effects on infrastructure. As soon as the beaches are gone, we lose rail service, we see land shifts, the concrete cracks, ”Sanders said. “Our beaches are extremely important in ensuring the protection of infrastructure and natural resources. “

Until there is a beach to “guard this part of the coast, Sanders said the problems will continue.” “The rip-rap in itself is not enough to protect the railroad tracks and prevent the ground from moving to the other side of the railroad tracks.

It is not the only area to suffer significant impacts from the lack of sand in recent years. At Capistrano Beach, officials are working with the California Coastal Commission to find the best way to replace a shoreline that has been eaten away in recent years, including the loss of equipment such as basketball courts and rings of fire.

The dirt road leading to San Onofre State Beach, a popular surfing area, and the nearby San Onofre Power Plant needed similar infusions of rip-rap as the sand eroded. Houses in areas like Capistrano Beach and Laguna Beach had to be fortified in the same way.

Related: Video shows big waves, high tides pounding beaches and homes in OC

Sandy beaches are an integral part of the way of life in Orange County and Southern California, often taken for granted that they will always be there, Sanders said.

“We have gone from the loss of beaches to major impacts of erosion,” he said.

But rock coverings and levees, while they can protect homes and infrastructure as an emergency measure, have their downside, Sanders said.

When the ocean hits the rocks, the sediment is moved by the rushing waters and the rocks will want to settle in a new position, he said. “You see a slope adjustment in response to washing this rock. “

Hard shielding, as lines of boulders and dikes are called, can make sand erosion worse.

When waves crash into a solid object, they dig more into the sediment than they would on a natural beach, pulling the sand further offshore, he said. The “feedback mechanism” creates deeper water, giving even more energy to the waves hitting the rocks.

“So even a small amount of impact on the rocks leads to erosion, which leads to deeper water, which then creates even bigger waves and then leads to more erosion,” he said. -he declares.

The solution? No more sand, he said.

“It’s really essential that we maintain a certain amount of sand on our beaches,” Sanders said. “They need a good amount of sand in front of these pavements to dissipate this energy before it even reaches the rocks.”

While sea level rise is often seen as the reason for the current sand erosion problem, it is more complex, he said.

The drought conditions prevent sediment from draining from the mouths of rivers and streams, which have also been concreted, preventing the sand from naturally eroding along the banks.

Locally, the development around Dana Point harbor blocks the delivery of sand from the cliffs above, which is also part of the equation, he said.

“The sand is just too low to protect us from these waves coming from the south,” he said. “This is an indicator of a consequence of our inability to maintain our beaches and manage our sediment reserves around the coast. This should serve as a wake-up call for the region to take sediment supplies very seriously and demand more. “

Sand of the utmost importance

Beaumont, the lawyer for the Cyprus Shores Community Association, said various stakeholders have come together, including the town, which has a sewer pumping station nearby.

He said the cracks around the community widened over the past week, including the one in the parking lot where he can now set his foot. Others were visible outside the houses, the vacant lot has started to subside and there is “evidence of structural cracks in the adjacent lots,” he said.

None of the homes were tagged red, he said.

City officials did not respond to requests for information on damage to homes.

“These properties are all affected by this, in addition to the adjacent lower rail line,” Beaumont said. “We worked to try to bring everyone together to work hard to complete this scope of repair so that we could come before the Coastal Commission.”

“What we’re looking to do is install caissons (a watertight retaining structure) to stabilize the movements,” Beaumont said.

He praised Metrolink, the Orange County Transportation Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers for moving quickly to bring rock fill trucks to the ocean side of the tracks to help stop the movement.

Emergency measures, such as homeowners installing caissons to secure the slope, require approval of a permit from the Coast Commission, he said. The insurance does not cover landslides, so liability for the cost will likely be a combination of the owners, the HOA and possibly the agencies involved, although those discussions are ongoing, he said.

“We hope this will be fixed and stabilized,” Beaumont said. “But restoring the sand on the beach will ultimately be of the utmost importance.”

Plans to add much-needed sand to two beaches in Orange County have been included in a request for federal funding for 2022.

Funding for the Surfside-Sunset and Newport Beach Nourishment Project (which would replenish the 12 miles from Huntington Beach to Newport) and the San Clemente Shoreline Project passed the House of Representatives a few months ago, but has yet to be approved by the Senate.

Both projects have been at a standstill for years, awaiting government funding to help create a beach buffer zone that would protect roads, homes and infrastructure from ocean flooding, as well as beaches – one of the main tourist draws. of the region – to disappear.

The San Clemente project, which began in 1999, would add 251,000 cubic meters of sand from Linda Lane Beach to T-Street Beach, south of the pier.

The planning process for replenishing sand is long, taking years, if not decades, for funding to be put in place. But in an emergency like last week, rocks can be dumped within days, rapidly changing the coastline, Sanders said.

“Once a wave event occurs, someone has a permit to quickly change our shoreline from a beach to a beach with a lot of rocks,” he said. “This is what will happen quickly in the absence of a regional coastal management plan.

“We need political leaders who can help cities in this region get their fair share of available federal government resources for shoreline stabilization.”


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