Houston, We Have a Problem



Since the institution of the drain-the-lagoon program at Aliso Beach, the amounts of sand accumulating on neighboring beaches is startling, and makes one wonder how much of our narrow slices of tide pool ecosystems are being buried by this drastic increase in sand deposits.

Yet another case of man messing with nature in a half-ass approach to really addressing the problem, which is upstream runoff entering the stream before going through any kind of bio-filtration beforehand.

This was first pointed out to me by the lifeguard at the Montage beach, who was commenting on the loss of 10th Street Beach as a side wash skimboard area.   So much sand has accumulated there that the waves almost never eat away at it enough to expose the rocks that best deflect the waves into a side wash, ideal for skimboarders. It has been many years since the beach was narrow enough, and presently the beach seems to have permanently acquired about 75 yards in increased depth; about a five fold increase in the width of the beach.

Figure the tide pool zone is at best 30 yards wide before it is too deep to be very diverse, or a least the richest portion of the rocky intertidal zone is going to be buried year round under sand.

It is time to hold all the property owners upstream accountable for their runoff.  At key locations, runnoff should be pooled and allowed to settle out and biodigest the fertilizer, pest control, automobile fluids, tire dust, standard procedure in Florida.

During the dry season the treatment plant could handle some of this runoff, and return it to the stream much cleaner. This bandaid is worth doing.

The grand canyon like gulch that is Aliso Creek, from the Ziggurat to the treatment plant, should be allowed to fill in by making rock jetties from side to side in the canyon, to force the stream into a spread and be absorbed by a series of terraces that would greatly reduce the pollution load before entering the sea, and would handle the high flow situations when we get local flooding situations. As it is, it is a race way that creates 30 foot cliffs and causes no end of troubles for the infrastructure pipes running up and down the canyon to serve the needs of the treatment plant at Aliso.

It could be engineered so the stream still has a primary path to sustain any wildlife that uses it, including the steelhead, and it would create a much larger wetlands.

Our county, which built the massive Dana Point Harbor jetties, and wiped out the best surfing area, could afford to clean up one of the worst polluted beaches in Southern California.

I am 60 years old, and I was told as an 8 year old staying at the Treasure Island Trailer Park, that Aliso Creek would give you boils. It did. And it is long overdue to fix this man-made problem.


Tex Haines, Laguna Beach

The author, president and founder of Victoria Skimboards, earned a biology degree from Stanford University in 1974.

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