Construction crews have completed two seawalls to protect and stabilize eroding bluffs in Shell Beach in an ongoing $2.3 million effort.

Next week, crews – some of whom had to rappel and hang by ropes on the side of the crumbling bluffs – will begin the architectural phase with a retaining wall that follows the contour of the bluff. The wall will be irregularly shaped, sculpted and colored to blend into the existing natural bluffs.

Street work, railings, sidewalks and a storm drain will follow, and the entire project should be completed by mid August, said Public Works Director Dwayne Chisam on Tuesday.

The area – on Ocean Boulevard between Capistrano and Wawona streets and the Vista Del Mar lift station – has been closed since December because of dangerous conditions. In May, the council declared the area an emergency because of potential bluff failures and sewer spills and began work several days later.

J.C. Baldwin Construction and TerraCosta Consulting Group are completing the work. The Cannon Corp. is performing on-site inspection and construction management.

Pismo Beach City Manager Kevin Rice said that only about $360,000 of the $2.3 million price tag will come from the city’s general fund. Of the city’s general fund total, about $150,000 will come from Measure C, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax. The city also will contribute about $850,000 for the project through the water and wastewater funds, Rice said. The remainder of the funding will come from the State Department of Boating and Waterways, FEMA and the federal government.

In the past few years, there has been opposition from The Coastal Commission, whose members have questioned whether or not the bluff erosion was unexpected but later changed their opinion. Environmental groups also have voiced opposition, questioning if the bluff erosion constituted an emergency.

City officials believe they have more time to address bluff erosion at the other sites – areas along so-called motel row on Price Street, near Dinosaur Caves, Cypress Street at Harloe Avenue – than they do at the sewage pump stations. They also have said it would be cost-prohibitive for the city to relocate the lift stations, which would require moving sewer, water and utility lines and securing property for the facilities. The cost has been estimated at $50 million.

Residents this week said they are pleased the work is moving along so quickly but still dread the road closures and construction workers in the quiet beachside residential area.

“All the workers kind of ruin the peace of the area,” said Cheryl Ryan of Shell Beach. “I don’t want to see workers on the bluffs from the water. I want to see the sand and bluffs. But it’s all necessary and they are working as fast as they can, so it’s all good.”

Neighbor August London agreed.

“From what I have heard, the work was needed to save the beach from spills and stuff like that,” London said. “That’s cool, but I won’t be the only one happy to see the area back to way it was without all this chaos.”

-Article originally released in the Times Press Recorder, Posted Friday July 6, 2012, By Kenneth Klein/Contributing Writer

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