California’s beaches may feel off-limits right now, but the coronavirus has not stopped the sea from rising. With every tide and storm, this slow-moving disaster continues to creep closer to shore — toppling bluffs, eroding our beaches and threatening homes and major infrastructure.
Also on the rise is a heated battle over what gets saved — and who actually benefits — along the California coast.
In a move this month that outraged environmentalists and caught coastal regulators off guard, a Republican senator pushed forward legislation that would revise a key section in the state’s landmark Coastal Act and allow homeowners in San Diego and Orange counties to build seawalls by right. These changes would set a precedent of sidestepping the required (and often tough) oversight of the California Coastal Commission, which for decades has walked the contentious line between protecting private property and preserving the very beaches that make California, well, California.
Seawalls, while effective in protecting beachfront homes and infrastructure in the short term, are controversial because they disrupt the erosion and natural replenishment of sand — stripping away beaches until they narrow or vanish altogether. For every new seawall protecting a home or road, a beach for the people is sacrificed.
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