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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
January 24, 2000


Let me go on record to say that seawalls and artificial jetties are nothing more than Band-aids for the environmentally challenged. Last week, in the wake of a fatal bluff collapse, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce held a meeting/photo opportunity for Mayor Jim Bond to complain about how state and national agencies are threatening Encinitas commercial interests.

I agree with Councilman Dennis Holz that it is important not to allow Encinitas beaches be labeled as rocky, because this is simply not true. Prior to the City of Oceanside and the Army Corp of Engineers constructing the Oceanside harbor between 1961 and 1963 there was plenty of sand on Encinitas Beaches. As a matter of fact it wasn't until after the winter storms of 81-82 that we began to notice a serious decline in the health of area beaches.

The culprit? Jetties. Massive piles of rock were required to protect the man-made hole known as the Oceanside Harbor from filling in with sand. Where these jetties have been effective in protecting the T-shirt shops and restaurants in Oceanside's third rate harbor it has been equally successful in stopping the longshore transport of beach sediments to the coastline south of Oceanside.

As politically incorrect as it may seem, it is time for the Oceanside jetties to be removed as a way of restoring the longshore transport. Short of environmental restoration, the city of Oceanside should be held liable for damages resulting from disappearing beaches to the south. Keeping in mind that all is fair in love and capitalism, it is also time for the city of Encinitas to play hard ball with their neighbor to the north. Plain and simple, Oceanside must be held accountable for their poor environmental planning.

So now we find ourselves in a Catch-22 of epic proportions. Without any thought to the consequences of such an action, Oceanside decided to create a harbor where there was none as a way of promoting commercial interests. Thirty-six years later cities to the south are now forced to deal with the fact that once plentiful beaches are have disappeared. So now to protect their commercial interests mercenaries in Encinitas are dreaming up questionable infrastructures to hold back the tide. Completely ignoring the easy answer to their problem, jetty removal, elected officials will keep throwing cement and money at the problem until something gives.

Human interference in the natural process is what brought us to this stalemate, and regardless of how we wish it was otherwise, continued human interference is not going to solve the problem. To the contrary if the myopic civic leaders of Encinitas insist on a quick easy fix they will only compound the problem. Trying to retard the environmental processes is a fools mission, trying to restore them on the other hand shows a commitment to the quality of life we so cherish. Let's face it folks, being a good environmental citizen, sometimes is contrary to the needs of a commercial environment. But this in no way frees us from that responsibility.

Considering that local media has given up on the concept of investigative journalism, and refuses to engage in any conversation that would threaten the status quo. Now is the time for all of us to start asking the hard questions of ourselves and our elected officials. Otherwise we might as well cement the whole damn coast and be done with it.

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