Taking on Mother Nature: Work set to start on long-awaited, long-debated Pleasure Point seawall

Sentinel Staff Report
Article Launched: 03/26/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT

By Kurtis Alexander
Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel

Construction of the long-awaited seawll along the cliffs in Pleasure Point is slated to begin in April.

PLEASURE POINT — Construction of what will be the largest seawall in Santa Cruz County will begin next month, setting in motion nearly a year of major engineering work, heavy-machinery use and road closures along a popular stretch of East Cliff Drive.

The county Board of Supervisors this week approved a $6.2 million deal with Drill Tech Drilling and Shoring Inc. of Antioch for the work.

The contract calls for roughly 1,200 feet of armoring along the Pleasure Point cliffs, a move intended to stabilize the shoreline and prevent the road and the adjacent homes and utilities from collapsing into the sea.

“This has been a long process to get us to this point. We’re really pleased about where we’re at,” said Betsey Lynberg, director of the county Redevelopment Agency, which is financing the project.

The seawall has been in the works for a decade as environmental regulators, surfers and public works managers have wrestled to achieve a compromise on how to solve the area’s chronic erosion issues.

Surfers have worried that a seawall could ruin the area’s famed surf breaks, environmentalists have questioned the effectiveness of seawalls and government officials have pored over the expense of saving the cliffs.

Details of the pending construction plan have yet to be finalized, but Lynberg says residents can expect to see a major work site taking shape by the end of April. The job will begin with large cranes lifting rip-rap and other debris off the beach and progress to concrete trucks furnishing the material to cover the cliff face.

Periodic closures of East Cliff Drive are inevitable, Lynberg says, but construction crews will do their best to maintain bicycle and pedestrian access along the popular coastal route.

County officials and Drill Tech representatives will hold a community meeting next month to go over final work plans.

“We’re well aware of the nature of this project. We’ve done similar work there before,” said Des Blake, project manager with Drill Tech.

His company put up smaller sections of seawall in Pleasure Point five years ago after the county declared an emergency there because of the crumbling cliffs.

The new seawall will consist of two segments: a 900-foot wall from Pleasure Point Park to 36th Avenue with new stairwells to the beach at 36th Avenue and at the park, and a 200- to 300-foot wall at 41st Avenue. Both walls will be made of steel-reinforced concrete and will match the color and contour of the bluff.

The work is expected to take 10 months.

Drill Tech was selected for the project after submitting the lowest of seven bids, most of which were lower than the county’s initial $8 million estimate.

After the seawall is built, county leaders will commence with the second phase of the project, the construction of new pedestrian and bicycle paths, roadside landscaping and educational panels about the ocean. A time line has not been set for the second phase.

If you Go

Public meeting
on Seawall

When: 7 p.m.
April 16
Where: Live Oak Grange, 1900 17th Ave.
DETAILS: Neighbors will be sent personal invitations but the meeting is open to all.