The city of Carpinteria began the construction of a winter-protection berm along Carpinteria City Beach on Monday. It will be complete in a couple days, or 40-50 hours of bulldozing.
The berm acts as a layer of protection for oceanfront property, keeping large waves from crashing into buildings.
“If we get a big storm with a high tide, we can expect the berm to be gone in one day,” said Matt Roberts, parks and recreation director for the City of Carpinteria. “It gives us a short fuse in which to react to a coastal emergency.”
The city of Santa Barbara constructed its berms a couple weeks ago, one on East Beach and the other at the harbor.
Santa Barbara Yacht Club is in a vulnerable position to the ocean’s waves, so it occasionally is damaged by storms. It was worse before the Breakwater was constructed.
“We like the berm; it protects us and the entire harbor from being flooded. Even with the berm, the harbor has been hit by severe winter storms that have washed through,” SBYC commodore Garry Pawlitski said.
“The berms are important to protect property first and foremost, which have been inundated in the past,” said Chris Bell, public information officer for the city of Santa Barbara Waterfront. “In the case of the East Beach berm, the scouring that occurs if the berm isn’t there can damage the Wharf.”
A large storm on March 2, 1983, sent waves as high as two-story buildings and knocked loose more than 50 of Stearns Wharf’s pilings.
Carpinteria has constructed the berm since 1983, and it has become a staple of the winter season.
“It’s kind of a Carpinteria cultural thing. You grow up and get to play on the berm in the winter,” Mr. Roberts said.
A child recently called excitedly asking when the berm will be up. The kids like to slide down the slope, winter sledding in a snow-less city.
The berm is usually piled up after Thanksgiving, that way the homes nearby can keep their ocean views for the holiday. The berms, if remaining, are taken down in the spring.
The Carpinteria City Beach berm is funded through taxes received from the waterfront homes in an assessment district.
“We’re going to have to be looking at this protection more and more as sea level rises,” Mr. Bell said.
The sea level in Santa Barbara is predicted to rise 0.8 feet by 2030, 2.5 feet by 2060 and 6.6 feet by 2100, according to the 2018 State of California Sea-Level Rise Guidance prepared by the Ocean Protection Council.
The city of Carpinteria is currently strategizing a more permanent solution to these seasonal berms. It is working with the Army Corp of Engineers to find a solution.
The city will also be holding public workshops, an initiative that kicked off earlier this fall.
One option is a living shoreline, where native plants act as a barrier to the water without interrupting animals movement.
Both Carpinteria and Santa Barbara watch for any endangered species before constructing the berms. Then, the berms are smoothed out prior to grunion season in March.
To watch the Carpinteria City Beach berm progress, go to video-monitoring.com/beachcams/carpinteria/.