Pismo Beach may get sea-wall support

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed building six sea walls in Pismo Beach to prevent sewage pumps and other public property from falling into the ocean.

In an environmental report released in November, the agency says the six locations in Shell Beach and northern Pismo Beach are suffering from severe and accelerating erosion from waves undermining the base of coastal bluffs.

“Ongoing retreat is likely to continue to encroach upon existing structures located above the sea cliff, undermine coastal stairways and sea walls, and erode adjacent lands, reducing building setbacks,” wrote Josephine Axt, the Corps’ planning chief for the Los Angeles district, in an e-mail.

Pismo Beach officials have identified as the highest priorities two locations where sewage pump stations are threatened by erosion. One is at Memory Park, and the other is at Vista del Mar Avenue at Ocean Boulevard.

“If either of those pump stations were to fail and sewage was to escape into the ocean, it would be disastrous for our beach community,” said Jon Biggs, Pismo Beach community development director.

Erosion also threatens Price Street and Highway 101. The report states that these two roads could be undermined within a decade unless they are armored.

The final proposed sites for sea walls are at Ocean Park and at Cypress Street at Harloe Avenue.

The Corps is proposing to use a combination of rock piles and vertical concrete walls to stop bluff erosion. If all goes as planned, the first two sea walls could be installed next summer, Biggs said.

The Corps has $5 million available for the sea walls that would protect the two sewage pump stations. Funding and timelines for the other four locations are unknown.

Sea walls that would protect Price Street and Highway 101 are the next priority.

All of these projects would require the approval of the state Coastal Commission, which can be skeptical of erecting sea walls. The commission does not like them because they are artificial structures on the beach, and they often reduce the amount of beach available for public use.

Surfers and environmentalists often don’t like sea walls either.

Andrew Christie, director of the local Sierra Club chapter, is critical of the Corps’ environmental review.

“We consider the contention that multiple coastal armoring/sea wall projects in the same area will have no significant environmental impacts is patently absurd and an obvious indicator that the Army Corps’ study of the project was inadequate,” he said.

Coastal Commission staff are reviewing the first two projects now.

Biggs said he is optimistic the commission will sign off on the first two sea walls because, without them, the sewage pump stations would have to be relocated. That would be prohibitively expensive.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.