The Pros and Cons of Seawalls

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Seawalls: Good or Bad?

Walter Cavanaugh and Gary Grossman had a serious dilemma. Their entire households were literally falling away from them. Their houses on Indio Drive in the Sunset Palisades Planning Area in Pismo Beach rest atop a bluff that protrudes into the sea. The impact of the waves of the Pacific Ocean against the land was eating away at the bluf, breaking it down into gravel.

In 2001, the two proprietors decided to do something to protect their property. On December eleventh, Pismo Beach authorized a Coastal Development Permit that allowed them to begin construction of a seawall to act as a buffer against the erosive impacts of water that crash upon the side of the cliff (W12b). The seawall stands fifteen to twenty feet above the water and is one hundred sixty-five feet in length with a width of one and a half feet (W12b). Looking at this wall, I thought it was a shelf of sedimentary rock of which the face of the cliff was naturally composed. However, after closer examination, I realized that it actually was man-made. According to my cousin, who was a member of the construction crew for the Cavanaugh-Grossman Seawall, the cosmetic appearance of the bulkhead was required to be the same color as the bluff which it protects. This wall towers fifteen to twenty feet above the surface of the ocean water, stretches one hundred sixty-five feet along the cliff, and is one and a half feet thick. As I gazed upon it, I thought to myself that no wave could penetrate this giant edifice.

Although the construction of this wall seemed to be a matter of common sense, environmental activists became involved and made an appeal to the Pismo Beach City Council, due to the potential environm...

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4. Pierce, Nathan, Ish, Teresa. “Position of the Surfrider Foundation, Santa Cruz Chapter on the proposed cliff stabilization along Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz.” 2 December 2004.

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