Ocean encroachment is a growing issue; some California towns decide not to fight it
By Alicia Chang and Jason Dearen
updated 6/2/2012 9:17:33 PM ET
LOS ANGELES — Years of ferocious storms have threatened to gnaw away the western tip of a popular beachfront park two hours drive north of Los Angeles. Instead of building a 500-foot-long wooden defense next to the pier to tame the tide, the latest thinking is to flee.
Work is under way to gauge the toll of ripping up parking lots on the highly eroded west end of Goleta Beach County Park and moving a scenic bike path and buried utility lines inland away from lapping waves.
Up and down the California coast, some communities are deciding it's not worth trying to wall off the encroaching ocean. Until recently, the thought of bowing to nature was almost unheard of.
But after futile attempts to curb coastal erosion — a problem expected to grow worse with rising seas fueled by global warming — there is growing acknowledgment that the sea is relentless and any line drawn in the sand is likely to eventually wash over.
"I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully," said David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at ESA PWA, a San Francisco-based environmental consulting firm involved in Goleta and other planned retreat projects.