SACRAMENTO — Today, AB 66, Assemblymember Boerner Horvath’s bill to initiate the development of an early warning notification system for California’s coastal bluff collapses, passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
With fatalities, injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage just in the last few years, bluff collapses are a constant threat to beachgoers and coastal neighborhoods throughout California. AB 66 would task the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego with expanding the science of coastal erosion with the goal of identifying key indicators for when a bluff is likely to fail.
“When we can save lives up and down the state and also prepare for the challenge presented by climate change and rising seas, we must take action,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “We need experts, science, and study to help us predict the day-to-day hazards along our coast. This bill is a necessary first step toward saving lives.”
In August of 2019, Anne Clave, Julie Davis, and Elizabeth Cox tragically passed away after a 30-by-25 heavy sandstone chunk broke loose and fell onto the three women who were sunbathing at Grandview Beach in Encinitas. In February of that same year, a San Francisco woman was fatally trapped after a similar collapse occurred at Fort Funston, burying her under tons of dirt.
“This bill can significantly advance research on the dynamics of cliff collapse along California's coastlines,” said Mark Zumberge, a research geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “With funding from this bill, we would aim to gain a better understanding of the processes leading up to cliff failures. Our goal is to learn how deformations are impacted by tides, large surf, groundwater, and rainfall to see if we can answer the question of whether signals exist that can forecast where and when an increased risk for collapse is developing.”
While the problem exists throughout the state, the threat is especially acute in coastal North San Diego County, where actively eroding bluffs cover approximately 80% of the coastline. The collapses are becoming increasingly common with the impacts of rising seas, with scientists forecasting erosion at more than twice the historical rate by 2100. A late-April incident at San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea led authorities to issue warnings for beachgoers, and an early-March collapse in Del Mar put the economically critical LOSSAN rail line once again in jeopardy of being severed.
“I am grateful for Assemblymember Boerner Horvath’s leadership on AB 66 to make North County safe for all to enjoy our coasts,” said Dwight Worden, Deputy Mayor of the City of Del Mar. “The City of Del Mar is home to the Del Mar Bluffs, which have already been identified as a vulnerable coastal sea cliff. As beaches narrow due to sand loss and sea level rise, and as beach attendance continues to increase, beachgoers must continually compete for less and less space, often close to the unstable bluffs. Having the research available for the development of an early warning system will help save lives and protect critical infrastructure at risk.”
The bill now moves back to the Assembly for concurrence.