West Coast
Conditions at Point Dume on Friday, Aug. 20. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Beaches & Harbors )

CA - New LA County Plan Aims to Protect Its Beaches for Future Generations

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to develop a coastal resiliency strategy as sea levels continue to rise worldwide.

The initiative aims to preserve L.A.’s beaches in the decades to come, especially as they’re affected by adverse weather events like coastal storms and flooding.

Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Lindsey Horvath authored the motion, which highlighted two ways of protecting local beaches: transporting sediment from the mountains to the beaches and reintroducing native plants to act as anchors to keep sand from being swept away.

While the plan aims to protect L.A.’s beaches for future generations, some coastal areas are already seeing the effects of erosion. Zuma Beach and Redondo Beach are narrowing as their iconic white sand gets swept into the sea. In 2021, an access road near Point Dume collapsed into the ocean.

“Our 18 county-operated beaches from Malibu to Redondo Beach to San Pedro are a critical resource for all Angelenos as our region gets hotter,” Horvath said at the supervisors meeting Tuesday. “If we don’t act soon, the public may lose access to these beaches forever, or they’ll become resources only for the privileged few who live near the coast.”

According to county officials, L.A.’s beaches see 70 million annual visitors from near and far, contributing an estimated $2.2 billion to the local economy.

The county's strategy is under development and will require the input of county departments, experts and nonprofits, but officials hope to use a variety of tactics to combat beach erosion in the decades to come, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects sea levels will rise by 10 to 12 inches by 2050.

“Something that might work really well in a part of Zuma may not be the right solution for, say, Redondo Beach,” said Carol Baker, deputy director at L.A. County Beaches and Harbors. “So we've been getting grounded with each beach and working with coastal engineers and experts on coastal restoration and dune building to come up with the best opportunities possible.”

The county's beach-saving proposals

The motion calls for further creation of special zones filled with native plants that anchor the beaches and keep sand from being swept away, often called “living shorelines.”

Nonprofit agency the Bay Foundation is one of many organizations partnering with the county on its plan. They’ve developed living shorelines from Malibu to Manhattan Beach, including a current call for proposals on a living shoreline and dune restoration project in Santa Monica.

“We are using a very nature-intensive, affordable, and largely hands-off approach to getting this done,” Bay Foundation chief operating officer Tom Ford said.

As part of the motion, the county will look into the possibility of hauling sediment from reservoirs and flood control channels upstream. Since most rivers in the region have been directed into concrete channels, they don’t pick up the kind of sediment they would running their natural course, which then lessens the supply of sand and sediment on beaches.

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