Imperial Beach. April 30. Surfers across the country are thanking President Obama after the Army Corps of Engineers' beach-fill budget took a significant cut from the White House.While the Office of Management and Budget approved $4.6 billion for all Corps projects under the stimulus budget, it cut funding for beach dredge and fill projects in 2010."We are grateful to President Obama for listening to the concerns of surfers and environmentalists, since these unnecessary pork barrel projects have long been a point of contention over their destruction of critical coastal and marine habitat and recreational resources," said Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an environmental organization based in Imperial Beach, California, that had fought a controversial dredge and fill project slated for that U.S.-Mexco border community.Dedina and WiLDCOAST worked with surfers and environmentalists from Massachusetts to New Jersey to Florida and throughout Southern CalIfornia to focus attention on the destructive nature of Corps beach dredge and fill project projects. Environmentalists and surfers have made the case that beach dredge and fill projects primarily benefit wealthy beachfront property owners, that erosion is not an issue until a building is placed on the beach, and that dredge and fill projects are a waste of money given global climate change-related increasing sea levels.In Imperial Beach the Corps has scheduled a $70 million dredge and fill project that local surfers said would have caused significant environmental, recreational and public health impacts. The Army Corps was slated to dredge and area near a sewage outfall pipe that was used as a gunnery range during World War I. Local officials had spent more close to $250,000 lobbying for the project. As mitigation for the potential of dumping ordnance on Imperial Beach the Corps said it would have a bomb squad on call. The Corps had rejected working with local surfers and WiLDCOAST who suggested finding an alternative dredge site. Surfers were also worried that the project would destroy the Tijuana Sloughs a historic big-wave surfing site and a reef proposed as a State of California Marine Protected Area that is also a significant leopard shark spawning site.According to Dedina, "Hopefully surfers, environmentalists and coastal managers can now begin to work together to proactively plan a coastal management program nationally that addresses sea level rise rather than solely defending the interest of beachfront property owners through wasteful pork barrel projects. In our case here on the U.S.-Mexico border we don't need help with sand, but with our beach closure crisis caused by sewage from Mexico."- Serge Dedina
Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and a longtime surfer in Imperial Beach. You can reach him via wildcoast.net.