Boardwalk gets river straightened out: Meandering San Lorenzo now headed back to the ocean

By J.M. BROWN – Santa Cruz
Posted: 03/21/2012 05:49:13 PM PDT

SANTA CRUZ – A day after crews guided the San Lorenzo River away from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and back toward the ocean, a bulldozer continued Wednesday building up a berm on Main Beach to protect the historic amusement park.

“We got the river flowing back in its natural direction, to the sea, and stopped the flow against the Boardwalk,” said Kris Reyes, spokesman for the Seaside Co., owner of the 105-year-old Boardwalk. “Until yesterday (Tuesday), we hadn’t been able to redirect the river through berming.”

Boardwalk rides, which are open only on weekends at this time of year, are expected to be in operation Saturday and Sunday weather permitting. The beach remains open up to the point where crews have built the berm.

Before crews were able to redirect the river, a deep pool formed on the south end of the beach close to the river mouth, essentially washing out what is normally a walkable stretch of sand connecting the Boardwalk to Seabright State Beach. But the water is likely to subside once sand is redeposited on shore through tides, said Gary Griggs, director of Marine Sciences Institute at UC Santa Cruz.

“It’s certainly not rare for waves to bring sand up that far,” Griggs said. “My guess is, given we have normal sets of storms from here on out, we may fill that void in again (through) a combination of high tides and big waves.”

Griggs said he doubted crews will have to move much sand to rebuild the beach, adding, “Waves will do it a lot more efficiently.”

Reyes said the Boardwalk is leveling out the berm and “trying to put the beach back to normal as soon as we can.” But with some rain forecast for this weekend, he said, “We’re watching it closely. I think we’ve got a good handle on it.”

A storm last week sent the river on a sharp right turn away from Monterey Bay directly toward the Boardwalk. The Seaside Co. is working with the city, which manages the beach, and Coastal Commission, which extended an emergency permit to create the berms, to weigh longer term solutions for how to handle the persistent problems of the meandering river and prevent flooding of the Boardwalk basement.

“This can’t be our new reality,” Reyes said.

Beach-goers didn’t seem fazed by the bulldozer’s noise Wednesday.

“I think the ocean drowns it out,” said Redding-area resident Emily Brower, who was visiting Santa Cruz for the first time.

Elhadji Faye, a Boardwalk maintenance worker monitoring the berming operation Wednesday, said he had to block pedestrians from walking toward the pooled water. But he said they understood.

“We have to make sure it’s safe,” he said. “It’s deep.”

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown on Twitter @jmbrownreports