Restoration Plan - Crown Memorial State Beach

Contact: Diane Althoff

East Bay Regional Park District to Replenish Sand at Crown Memorial State Beach


Background Information

On November 24, 2009, the East Bay Regional Park District will release a plan for a major sand replenishment project at Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach/Alameda Beach in the City of Alameda. If approved, the project is scheduled to begin in September 2010. The nearly 2-mile long, man-made beach has faced significant sand loss over the years as projected due to ordinary erosion and through damage from severe storm events. The Park District completed a major, multi-phased beach restoration project in1988, over twenty years ago. The proposed plan includes bringing in more than 82,000 cubic yards of sand in two phases and grading it to conform to the 1988 as-built beach footprint. 

The proposed project also includes the shoreward extension of the existing groin structure located near the foot of Park Street that separates the beach from the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary.  The groin would be extended approximately 100 ft. landward using concrete sheet pile construction (similar to the existing groin) or a rock rip-rap structure.  The extension of the groin will help keep additional sand out of the bird sanctuary, which will benefit the wildlife habitat.

The Park District has begun the preliminary stages of the sand replenishment plan by preparing a proposed Negative Declaration of Environmental Significance (Mitigated Negative Declaration) to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The CEQA document concludes that with the implementation of avoidance and mitigation measures the project will not result in significant environmental impacts. The public can review this document and make comments during a 30-day public review period which concludes on Monday, December 28, 2009.  A public hearing to consider adoption of the project is tentatively scheduled for the regular Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, February 2, 2010.

The proposed plan includes bringing sand in by barge and then pumping it onto the beach in a mixture of sand and water via a pipeline. Sand will be dredged from a commercial mining operation in the San Francisco Bay. This method worked successfully during the beach restoration project in the 1980's and resulted in minimal traffic impacts.  Construction of this project would temporarily generate noise and affect air quality, public access to the beach, parking, and traffic, but all potential impacts will be avoided or minimized. The Park District is also taking extra precautions to protect sensitive fish and wildlife and their nearby habitats by scheduling this project around nesting, breeding, spawning and migration seasons. The project will be constructed in two phases with the first phase planned to begin in fall 2010 and last up to six weeks.  The second phase, which could take up to 10 weeks to complete, will either directly follow the first or will be postponed until September 2011, again depending on any anticipated effect to wildlife.

Alameda Beach was created in the 1950s when the marshes and mudflats of southern Alameda were filled in to create an area for residential and commercial buildings. An artificial beach was constructed and managed by the City of Alameda. Sand erosion was a serious issue from the start. The City of Alameda turned its management over to the Park District in 1967. At the same time, the Park District acquired the state-owned northern section that was renamed Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach in 1974 after Assemblyman Robert Crown who campaigned to have the state acquire the area for a swimming beach. The Park District struggled for years to manage wind and wave erosion of the fine-grained sand beach. 

A 1981 Army Corps of Engineers study performed along the Alameda beach suggested that an engineered beach system using the appropriate gradation of sand would be a cost-effective way of providing both erosion protection and a recreational amenity.  The Park District. in partnership with the City of Alameda and the State Department of Boating and Waterways, was successful in constructing this engineered beach and sand dune system in the 1980s using a heavier-grained sand from Bay Area mining operations.  This man-made beach was built with the knowledge that it would require sand replenishment over time. Twenty years later, 82,600 cubic yards of sand is needed to restore Crown Beach to its original engineered configuration so as to continue to provide shoreline erosion control, renew the swim beach experience, and enhance protection to the bird sanctuary. Crown Beach is the largest and most heavily used swimming beach in the San Francisco Bay.

Phase 1 of the project, which involves placing up to 20,600 cubic yards of sand to replace sand lost during a major storm event in December 2005, is being funded by FEMA at a cost of $860,000.  The California Department of Boating and Waterways will fund Phase 2 for $1.5 million, which involves placing an additional 62,000 cubic yards of sand on Crown Beach to complete the sand replenishment.  If needed, additional funding for this phase is available through the Park District's Measure WW bond, approved by the voters in November 2008.  Funds for the groin extension project have not yet been identified. 


In the 1980s, erosion was so severe, just reaching the waterfront was a challenge for visitors

An innovative solution included bringing sand in by barge and then pumping it onto the beach in a mixture of sand and water

Equipment helped level the sand back to the original beach design.

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After the restoration, a beautiful beach greets the public, circa 1980s.