It's man against nature at El Segundo and Dockweiler beaches, and nature is winning--for the moment.
El Segundo's beach has eroded to a sliver. Looming offshore is the perennial danger of a heavy storm like the one that caused $800,000 damage to the El Segundo and nearby Dockweiler beaches four years ago. The elements threaten a recreational vehicle park being built at Dockweiler Beach south of Imperial Highway, a bike path running along Vista Del Mar, and even the Southern California Edison plant at the south end of El Segundo beach.
However, there's a plan to turn the tide.
It involves a federally mandated expansion of the Hyperion sewage treatment plant, planners from the City and County of Los Angeles, and 730,000 cubic yards of sand.
It will result in the replenishment of a 5,000-foot section of Dockweiler Beach near the Hyperion plant and a 2,000-foot section of El Segundo beach in front of Edison. The Dockweiler portion will be widened by 105 feet and the El Segundo site by 210 feet, for a total of 22 acres of new beach, planners said.
The idea has been around for awhile, said Brian Griffiths, a Los Angeles public works engineer, but finally took shape under the direction of Gregory Woodell, a planner for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, which manages the beaches.
Woodell wanted to do something about the sorry state of Dockweiler and El Segundo beaches. He noticed that the City of Los Angeles is undertaking a major expansion and modernization of the Hyperion plant as part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit.
The expansion will vastly improve Hyperion's treatment process; it will also require unearthing an enormous amount of sand.
Why let the city incur expense and effort in trucking the sand off to some disposal site, Woodell reasoned, when the sand could go where sand belongs: the beach.
"It's a good deal for everyone," said Griffiths, who is working closely with Woodell.
The city has agreed to select and pay a contractor to carry out Woodell's scheme, which will cost about $2.5 million--about half a million less than to dispose of it elsewhere. Bulldozers at the Hyperion site will push wet sand from the excavation into two-foot-diameter pipes that will run below Vista Del Mar to the two beaches. The pipes will then systematically disperse the sand in slurried form, mixed with salt water.
"The city saves money by not having to truck the sand," Griffiths said. "The slurry pipes won't disrupt traffic. What happens is, the sand is mixed with sea water in the pipes and is dumped on the beach. The surf helps spread out the sand."
Currents to Help
According to Woodell, El Segundo beach will be built up and widened by 350,000 cubic yards of sand, while Dockweiler will get 380,000 cubic yards. Currents will eventually distribute some of the sand to Manhattan and Hermosa Beaches as well.
Except for $26,000 for consultant and planning expenses, the county is getting the sand free.
"We always need sand," Woodell said. "We got lucky this time, generally we have to pay for it. Usually we dredge it from the bottom of the ocean, which costs millions of dollars. We're picking up 22 acres of public land that people will be able to enjoy for years."
After bids are taken and a contractor is chosen by November, work at Dockweiler is scheduled from about late December and to mid-March. The widening of El Segundo Beach will last from March to early July, Woodell said.
Small areas of the beach being replenished will be closed as the work is done, Woodell said. The plan has received city and state environmental approval, as well as the support of city and industry officials who have been in touch with Woodell.
"This beach is naturally very erosive," said Southern California Edison environmental engineer Bob Grove. "It wouldn't hurt to have a wider one. In the 1980 storms, boulders got tossed around. That had some of our plant personnel worried. We put in rock revetments on the beach, but you never know what's going to happen with one of these big storms."
The wider beach will protect the bike path along Vista Del Mar and the Dockweiler recreational areas. That will probably benefit more users than the work at El Segundo's beach, where a rich variety of industrial aromas tends to discourage bathers.
Nonetheless, El Segundo associate planner Barbara Redlitz said her city welcomes the replenishment project. She said she has written to Woodell emphasizing her concern that work be completed before school lets out for the summer next year and asking the county to consider putting drinking fountains and benches on the refurbished beach.
Sand for Venice Beach
Woodell said that as the Hyperion project continues, another million cubic yards of sand is expected to be available. Officials are devising a plan to pipe that sand underwater to replenish Venice Beach.
As Grove pointed out, nature does not always have the last word in these cases. Indeed, many Los Angeles area beaches would have disappeared without replenishment.
"You've got to remember that most of the beaches in Santa Monica Bay are man-made," Grove said. "The natural sand input is gone. We've got to rely on man's projects."