Rio Del Mar State Beach Living Shoreline Project – Santa Cruz, CA
By David L. Revell, Ph.D., Principal
Aptos creek flows meeting the Pacific ocean have triggered rapid coastal changes caused by the interactions between creek dynamics and coastal processes. These changes have caused long-term problems for California State Parks resources and County of Santa Cruz infrastructure at Rio Del Mar Beach. This at-risk, highly utilized location supports endangered species, a tourism based economy, and the wastewater infrastructure for an entire community. Regulatory constraints and a desire by State Parks to avoid the use of engineered armoring solutions resulted in these entities reaching out to Integral.
Integral staff approached the problem by breaking it down simply. First, we identified the physical processes causing the problem. Second, we recognized what an unaltered natural ecosystem would have looked like. With these two pieces of information, Integral took a geomorphic approach and connected the physical forces with the missing ingredients and came up with an innovative solution that combined naturally provided driftwood with a historically occurring sand dune. This approach has never been tried in California but has been used elsewhere around the world.
Integral developed a conceptual restoration design and in just four days of construction working with exemplary State Parks staff, we gathered available driftwood, engineered a log jam with pins and cross bracing to serve as a shore protection structure, and then buried the log structure under a sand dune. The structure will provide protection from storm surge and erosion. Over time, the elevation of the drift logs used to pin and brace the shore parallel logs will need to be monitored. Future performance will be closely scrutinized, but State Parks and the local community have been extremely satisfied to date. This engineering-with-nature approach was based on Integral leadership observations of major storm damages and recovery in natural systems.