Severe erosion in South San Clemente closed down the railroad tracks from Dana Point to Oceanside for months on several occasions due to ongoing beach erosion and movement on the track. In September 2021, erosion began a string of emergency actions for placement of riprap armoring in an attempt to stabilize the tracks. So far, OCTA has requested four emergency permits from the California Coastal Commission and been granted permission for emergency placement of 26,500 tons of riprap boulders on the beach over approximately 700 linear feet. OCTA was also granted an emergency permit to construct permanent bluff stabilization on the landward side of the tracks using bluff tiebacks.
The railroad tracks along South Orange County were originally constructed in 1888 and the rock revetment in the 1930's. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) purchased the railroad right-of-way in 1993. At present day, passenger cars Metrolink and Amtrak's Surfliner regularly use the tracks. The tracks have been subject to periodic maintenance including a large scale maintenance operation in 2003 involving expansion of the riprap revetment. Overtime, South Orange County's beaches have been subjected to increased erosion due to rising seas, manmade alterations such as the channelization of waterways that historically provided sediment to the coast and the extensive armoring of the coast that disrupts natural sediment deposition and prevents bluff erosion from nourishing the beaches.
The Coastal Commission requires emergency permits be followed up with coastal development permits (CDP) for full review of Coastal Act consistency. The CDP hearing will be held in the future.
It is clear that maintaining the railroad tracks along the beach in San Clemente has already led to the destruction of portions of Dana Point and San Clemente's beaches and will only exacerbate erosion as sea levels rise. We must start planning now to relocate the tracks and restore the beach - or this great resource will be lost to present and future generations. Surfrider will advocate as part of the follow up coastal development permit that OCTA commit to relocating the tracks and restoring the beach.