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Pillar Point Harbor - East Outer Harbor Dredge Project to Include Surfers Beach Replenishment and Eelgrass Mitigation Plan

May contain: sea, ocean, water, nature, outdoors, shoreline, and coast



Surfers Beach Permitting Update - June 2024Surfers Beach Update - February 21, 2024 Surfers Beach Project Planning and Permitting Process Overview February 15, 2024 

Consultant ESA provided update and proposal for additional work was approved November 15, 2023.

Staff Report  Surfers Beach - November 15, 2023


The District is planning for a spring/early summer 2025 timeframe to begin a phased approach:

  • first completing the eelgrass dredging/filling components of the project,
  • followed by surfers beach dredging and beach placement and transplanting of eelgrass several weeks after the mitigation site is constructed, pending availability of Project funding and permits.

Project Engineering and Design: The project planning team prepared draft Final Plans for the Surfers Beach Project and Eelgrass Mitigation. The team also completed a Preliminary Design Report for the Surfers Beach Project. 


All permit applications have been submitted for the project. District staff and consultants have been coordinating with agency staff to respond to requests for additional information. Permit applications for the project were submitted to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Coastal Commission, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Monterey Bay/Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. Permit applications were submitted for a volume of up to 100K cy of sand to be placed on Surfers Beach.

Funding and Grants:

Additional funding is actively being sought by the District. The District and its consultants will continue to seek additional opportunities as more grant funds are announced. Applications have been submitted for more than 10 grant opportunities since 2020. Additionally, the project has already been approved for grant funding from California Ocean Protection Council ($75K), California Division of Boating and Waterways ($800K), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ($125K) for project related costs.



1 Surfers Beach - Eelgrass Mitigation Project Description2 Surfers Beach - Prelim Design Report - ESA June 20213 Final IS-MND Surfers Beach4 CEQA Notice of Determination5 Biological Assessment Surfers Beach 1/20/20226 Surfers Beach 2019 Final Sediment Sampling and Analysis Report




Surfers Beach is a popular beach and recreation area located on the San Mateo County coast, just south of Pillar Point Harbor (PPH), immediately north of the City of Half Moon Bay, and west of the unincorporated community of El Granada. The proposed Project would involve dredging of up to 100,000 cubic yards (CY) of clean sand accumulated along the inside of Pillar Point Harbor’s East Breakwater and a one- time placement of that sand to form an elevated berm along an approximately 1,000-foot-long section of shoreline at Surfers Beach in Half Moon Bay.

Since construction of the PPH breakwater in 1961 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Surfer’s Beach has experienced a significant amount of beach and bluff erosion, leading to a recent permanent loss of sandy intertidal beach area and bluff-top coastal scrub and grassland, as well as an increased exposure of Highway 1 to erosion and flood hazards during coastal storms. While the shore at Surfer’s Beach eroded, significant accretion and deposition of sediment inside PPH has resulted in impacts on navigation and use of the boat launch ramp. The erosion at Surfers Beach and the impacts of sand shoaling inside the harbor generated significant interest and concern of local community members. In addition to general beach recreation, Surfers Beach is a very popular surf spot for surfers of all levels of experience, and in particular beginners because of its sheltered location. 

The rapid erosion of the beach and bluffs extending south of the harbor has been a source of concern over the past several decades. A recent Army Corps of Engineers study concluded that the bluffs along Surfer’s Beach eroded at an average rate of 1.64 feet per year between 1993 and 2012. This erosion rate was determined to be approximately seven times higher than the rate of erosion at a geologically similar stretch of shoreline farther down the coast. Powerful storms during the past two winter seasons have resulted in even more severe erosion, causing major threats to Highway 1, Mirada Road and other coastal infrastructure and leading to emergency repairs by Caltrans and the County of San Mateo. Upon request of the District in 2009, the USACE conducted a series of studies and evaluations to assess the cause of the erosion and whether there was a federal interest in mitigating for damages that occurred after construction of the harbor. Specifically, the USACE conducted coastal engineering and economic studies for a range of project alternatives where sand was dredged from the harbor and placed as a berm along the shore of Surfers Beach. The USACE efforts culminated in a Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) Section 111 Detailed Project Report and Draft Environmental Assessment, which concluded that while the project alternatives considered would be feasible and have less than significant environmental impacts, there was no economic justification for a federal interest in the project. The Surfers Beach Pilot Restoration Project (project) was proposed by San Mateo County Harbor District as an opportunity to demonstrate that the beneficial reuse of dredged harbor sediments as beach nourishment at Surfers Beach can be implemented with no significant impacts to marine resources in the MBNMS. 

The purpose of the project is to address erosion at Surfers Beach by restoring sandy beach area using dredged material from navigable areas of Pillar Point Harbor, including the boat launch ramp. The project seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of successfully implementing a beach nourishment project at Surfers Beach in the MBNMS without having significant impacts to the coastal resources. This demonstration consists of a pilot restoration project that dredges approximately 75,000-100,000 cubic yards of sand from the harbor and places it at Surfers Beach. One of the major anticipated outcomes of the proposed project is that it will address impaired public access (including positive recreational impacts) and address damages from coastal storms. The project will also mitigate shoaling and impacts to navigation within the Harbor by dredging the sand that has accumulated there since the construction of the outer breakwaters in the early 1960s. The project will employ extensive physical and ecological monitoring to assess the project’s effects on the environment, which would help to establish metrics that could be used to evaluate the performance of the project and to calibrate expectations for a larger or repeated future effort. 

The goal of the project is to study the potential benefits and impacts of implementing a pilot project that beneficially reuses up to 100,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from Pillar Point Harbor and placed at Surfers Beach. Objectives include: 

-       Prevent or mitigate beach erosion and sea cliff retreat

-       Improve protection of Highway 1 and other structures

-       Increase quality and quantity of public access and recreation

-       Reduce the need for coastal armoring

-       Improve biological habitat

-       Design project to minimize biological impacts and disturbances

-       Maintain safe navigation for boats in Pillar Point Harbor

The proposed Surfers Beach project is a Pilot Project, meaning that a major objective is to closely study and monitor the project to determine whether or not it is effective and also to identify any environmental impacts. If post construction monitoring and review indicate that the Project is effective in mitigating erosion and does not cause unacceptable impacts, then a larger beach restoration project at Surfers Beach would be pursued in the future. The project is necessary to reduce the threat of structural damage and recreation loss along Surfers Beach. 

May contain: sea, ocean, water, nature, outdoors, shoreline, and coast