Nourishment evolution and impacts at four southern California beaches: a sand volume analysis

Ludka, BC, Guza RT, O'Reilly WC.  2018.  Nourishment evolution and impacts at four southern California beaches: a sand volume analysis. Coastal Engineering. 136:96-105.

Date Published:



Four southern California beaches were nourished with offshore sand placed as subaerial pads several meters thick, ~50 m wide, and spanning between 500 and 1500 m alongshore. Three nourishments constructed with coarser than native sand, placed in 2012 at Imperial, Cardiff and Solana Beaches, elevated subaerial sand volumes for several years even when exposed to the energetic winter waves of the 2015-16 El Niño, followed by a stormy 2016-17 winter. As these relatively resilient pads were overwashed, landward tilted subaerial profiles (accretionary crowns) formed at the eroding front face of the originally flat-topped pads and pooling occurred in the backbeach. At Imperial Beach, nourishment sand helped prevent waves from directly impacting riprap fronting houses, while groundwater flooding behind the pad was observed at a location where the pad was elevated ~1.6 m above the street. As the nourishments retreated, alongshore oriented spits grew downdrift from the eroding face. The alongshore displacement of the subaerial center of mass of the 2012 nourishments is positively correlated with the seasonally varying Sxy (the alongshore radiation stress component). After four years, the net southward drift of the Imperial Beach nourishment contributed to the winter 2016 closure of the Tijuana River mouth and the associated hyper-polluted and anoxic estuary conditions. Nourishment impacts on sand levels on rocky reefs were not unambiguously detectable in the background of natural variability. Over several years, gains or losses in the total sand volume (integrated from the back beach to 8 m depth, over the few km alongshore survey spans) are sometimes comparable to nourishment volumes, suggesting relatively large interannual sediment fluxes across the control volume boundaries. The clearest trend in total volume is at Torrey Pines; during 16 years since the 2001 nourishment, about 300,000 m^3 of sand has been lost. If the trend continues, the thinning veneer of sand will be removed more often from the subaerial winter beach, exposing rocks and cobbles.