Imperial Beach Sand Project 2012 Day 1

Pipes on the beach for the SANDAG sand project in Imperial Beach.

SANDAG has stared a local sand replenishment projects. WiLDCOAST supported this project as an alternative to a long list of horrific projects that deposited toxic sediment, rocks, garbage, metal and glass on our beaches under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hopefully this project will be a bit better.

Here is a summery of the history of local sand projects:

The history of Imperial Beach is rife with a parade of badly executed “beach replenishment” projects that have failed to actually do much to protect our coastline. The problem of our receding shoreline is the result of the combination of sea level rise, the construction of the Rodriguez Dam and the armoring of our coast.

Here is a brief history of the mostly unsuccessful and fatally flawed sand projects carried out by federal agencies at the urging of the city of Imperial Beach. Only one agency, SANDAG, has been able to carry out a successful beach project—primarily due to its commitment to using clean, large-grain sand for its projects.

1976-77: The most toxic areas of South San Diego Bay are dredged and the spoils are dumped on Imperial Beach, killing benthic life (e.g., sand crabs) for more than a decade. Local surfers still tell stories about the skin rashes they received from contact with the filthy sediment.

1977-84: The Army Corps of Engineers attempts to build a mile-long breakwater in Imperial Beach. The fledgling Surfrider Foundation and local surfer Jim Knox stop the project at the last minute. The breakwater would have forever destroyed surfing and wave action in most of Imperial Beach.

2001: SANDAG carries out a project with clean sand, which helps to create great sandbars for surfing and clearly increases the size of our beach.

2004: Army Corps dredges area near the Bay Bridge. Barges then dump toxic sediment in the surf zone including thousands of rocks and pieces of garbage, dangerous rebar and metal onto the beach and in the surf zone. Surfers call the dump area “Toxics.” One child is almost impaled by a piece of rebar that is hidden in the surf zone. The city initially denies that the garbage and rocks are from the project. No measurable benefit to beach.

2007: Army Corps permits the dredging of a toxic hot spot in San Diego Bay’s Shelter Island. Dredge spoils are dumped with no notice to Imperial Beach residents. Barge is initially turned away by Imperial Beach lifeguards. The barge subsequently works in the middle of the night to avoid public scrutiny. No measurable benefit to beach.

2009: Starting in 2000, Army Corps and the city of Imperial Beach plan a $75 million long-term project involving dredging an area near the border sewage outfall pipe that was used as a World War I gunnery and bombing area. WiLDCOAST, Imperial Beach surfers, the Surfrider Foundation, Senator Tom Coburn and the Obama White House kill the project that the city of Imperial Beach spent more than $250,000 lobbying for.

2010: SANDAG once again proposes “best practices” sand project to be carried out in 2012 involving clean large grain sand. The agency works extensively with local surfers and stakeholders to plan the project.


  1. chris ruel says:

    your ruining our fucking beach!!!

    • Hi Chris:

      Not sure how I ruined the beach–I reported on a beach project carried out by Sandag, a government agency–I did not fund or manage the project. As I said–we had a choice in IB–be subject to a larger non-stop project for a decade–not stop dredge and fill projects involving sand with rocks and military ordnance or take this once in a decade project with clean sand. Additionally, we had the Army Corps planning endless dredging of San Diego Bay and dumping the toxic sediment in our water as they did a number of times over the past eight years. If you’d like to talk about it let me know. Just please make sure you differentiate between a private person and a very large government agency like SANDAG and or the City of IB who are responsible for the project. And if I’m not mistaken–maybe you mean that the project ruined the surf in the short-term–since by all accounts the beach is pretty big and with nice clean sand–it is the surf in the short term that is pretty bad. Cheers, Serge

  2. Christopher P. Brandt says:

    Serge, I don’t think Chris meant you literally ruined the beach, but these projects over the years have ruined it. As a surfer in IB since the early 1980’s I’d say the current project has def ruined the surf, especially on the south side of the pier. What was once some of the best surf in all of San Diego County now looks like a freaking lake. Thanks to all who had the brilliant idea of this sand dump for that. I highly doubt as you write though that local surfers were extensively involved.

    • Hey Chris-thanks for your comment. Unfortunately recently very few IB surfers came to the recent IB Council meetings to talk about the impacts of the project. Pleas also consider applying to be on the Tidelands Advisory Committee that we pushed the IB Council to be reinstated. It is critical that IB surfers get and stay involved in local politics or this kind of thing will continue to happen. Luckily I’m sure as you saw this weekend, it seems like the peaks are starting to break again from the pier south–nothing like before but I was relieved to finally surf Descanso again-but it was crazy shallow at low tide….


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