Construction complete on Shell Beach seawalls

Diana and Doug Daugherty walk their dog near a new seawall made to look like naturl rock in Shell Beach.
David Middlecamp
Diana and Doug Daugherty walk their dog near a new seawall made to look like naturl rock in Shell Beach. David Middlecamp 8-24-2012 dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Waves crashed against the shore in Shell Beach on Friday afternoon as walkers strode down Ocean Boulevard, passing two sites that had recently been busy with construction.

Some might not have noticed the finished product: two seawalls installed to shore up eroding bluffs and sculpted and stained to blend into the area.

“They look like the stone that was supposed to be there,” Diana Daugherty of Nipomo said. A former Shell Beach resident, Daugherty and her husband, Doug, were walking their dog near the cliff recently. “I think it’s definitely necessary,” she said.

Pismo Beach spent about $2.3 million to install the two seawalls. One protects a sewer pumping station at Vista del Mar and Ocean Boulevard, south of Eldwayen Ocean Park. The project also secured stairs leading down to the beach and removed a concrete storm drain from the beach.

“Now the storm drain is built into the bluff face, and you can’t believe how aesthetically pleasing it is,” Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham said. “It looks so natural.”

The other seawall, down the road, fortified a section of Ocean Boulevard between Wawona and Capistrano avenues.

That section of roadway was closed to vehicles in mid-December after an inspection revealed parts of the coastal bluff had become unstable and were in danger of collapsing. It was reopened about a month ago.

City officials have said the work was necessary to protect the sewage pumping station — failure of which would cause 500 to 600 homes to be without sewage services — and prevent further erosion beneath part of Ocean Boulevard.

The seawall also incorporates a public sidewalk, but the hand railing needs to be installed before it is opened to the public, Associate Engineer Ben Fine said.

The project was funded through several sources including federal and state funds, such as $865,000 from the state Department of Boating and Waterways.

The city in April approved a $2.2 million contract for design and construction services with San Diego-based TerraCosta Consulting Group and Carlsbad-based J.C. Baldwin Construction.

City officials initially issued an emergency permit in December, prompting the California Coastal Commission to question whether there was “a sudden and unexpected occurrence that allows for issuance” of the emergency permit.

Issuance of the emergency permit allowed the city to start working on the project immediately, instead of going through a longer process to solicit competitive bids for the work. The city’s Planning Commission still must approve the project, which it will consider at a meeting Tuesday.

After that, state coastal commissioners would have an opportunity to appeal the project.

Higginbotham said city staff is also working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with the Coastal Commission to see if a project could be agreed upon to shore up another bluff location at the St. Andrews lift station at Seacliff Drive and Baker Avenue.

Dinosaur Caves work

The city is also wrapping up some improvements to Dinosaur Caves Park in Shell Beach.

A path was moved farther away from the coastal bluff where a 100-foot section broke off in March 2011, and a new sign, restroom, benches and plants have been installed.

All of the work cost about $655,000, including an approximately $53,000 donation from Dinosaur Caves Preservation Society.

The city also plans to install a plaque in honor of Esther Janowicz, whose husband, Frank, served on the City Council in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was the visionary behind an effort to build the first walkway connecting Pismo Beach and Shell Beach.

A monument in his honor was placed at Dinosaur Caves Park. After his death, his widow continued to plant flowers in the area in honor of her husband.

Esther Janowicz died in March 2011. A plaque will be placed on a bench near the monument in her honor and a planter will be installed around the monument, Fine said.

A small ceremony is planned for Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. to inaugurate the park.