Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Pismo is on solid ground with seawalls

As the mayor of Pismo Beach, I would like to clarify information regarding the recent bluff preservation projects in our city.

There seems to be confusion about the manner in which the city moved forward with these projects and the specific communications made with the California Coastal Commission staff.

The Coastal Commission has certified the local coastal plan under which the city of Pismo Beach operates. Certification specifically enables the city to issue emergency permits within city jurisdiction.

Like all cities, Pismo Beach has the responsibility to protect the health and safety of its citizens. That includes constant watchfulness regarding bluffs, sewer and other systems at risk.

Taking our duties seriously, the city has been aware of the continuous and increasingly dangerous deterioration of the Vista Del Mar bluff site. Thousands of gallons of raw sewage reaching the ocean is a threat to both human and animal life. The resulting loss of sewer service to hundreds of residents is unacceptable.

The project completed at the Vista Del Mar site has protected the sewage lift station, stabilized the public beach access stairs and improved the storm drain. The removal of the old storm drain increased the size of the public beach, as well. This was done under the city’s emergency powers and completed in a manner that leaves the appearance of the bluff unspoiled.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only danger we faced.

Inspection along Ocean Boulevard discovered the existing crib wall literally holding up the road. The pedestrian path along Ocean Boulevard eroded long ago, making damage to sewer pipes and utility lines inevitable. With winter imminent, action was needed.

The emergency repairs were designed with the standards set forth in other projects approved by the Coastal Commission and were carried out with the commission’s full knowledge, including one Coastal Commission staff member making a site visit during project construction. Improvements included an aesthetically appealing seawall, an improved storm drain, and the replacement of a pedestrian access path along Ocean Boulevard.

For five years, the city has been working with the Coastal Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers to solve these threats. The Coastal Commission’s “solutions” were to move the lift stations and allow managed retreat. Those “solutions” would result in an estimated cost of $70 million, would have required the city to condemn residential properties in the area, and would allow Ocean Boulevard to fall into its watery namesake. The city’s response was more cost effective and better served our residents and visitors.

The completion of these projects was not only in accordance with the provisions of the Coastal Act, but also the Coastal Commission staff was kept informed at all stages.

Pismo Beach has and will continue to communicate and work with the Coastal Commission to preserve our beautiful coastline and its resources.

The brickbat given to our city included an admonition to “talk to each other” and the charge that the city doesn’t have the right to issue a permit. Neither fits the facts.

Shelly Higginbotham is the mayor of Pismo Beach.