Keep back from Del Mar bluffs

Local

DEL MAR, Calif. – Trains are rolling slow while beachgoers are asked to keep their distance after Sunday’s bluff collapse in Del Mar.

“It’s just not something we think people should be close to because you can’t really tell when something else might come down,” said John Haggerty, Director of Engineering at SANDAG.

Haggerty is one of many experts urging beach goers to keep at least a 50-foot distance from the Del Mar bluffs and the beach below. The warning comes after a major bluff collapse last Sunday just south of 4th St.

“This case there was a retaining wall at the bottom, and we think that the high tides and higher waves we’ve had just caused and undermined that retaining wall and caused it to collapse in this one area,” Haggerty said.

Geologist Dr. Pat Abbott warns Del Mar bluffs are susceptible to failure.

“The material at the top is quite young, geologically speaking, its only in the thousands of years old; it’s this reddish sandstone that you know you can take a piece of it in your hand and crumble it, so it’s not very strong rock up there and a lot of that is involved in the landslide that just happened,” Abbott said.

Haggerty said the collapsed bluff site, that has train tracks running on it, has been on SANDAG’s radar for a while.

There have been calls for action by the public and elected officials.

Transit authorities have been working for years to stabilize weak bluffs in the county, that project recently completed phase 4 out of 6. Phase 5 is slated to begin next year, but Haggerty said stabilization work will accelerate at the site of the bluff collapse, immediately pushing it to completion.

“We anticipate through March and April, we will be able to complete the work that we really need to do stabilize the bluff,” said Haggerty.

But for now, trains can only pass by at a crawl until the bluff is stable and beachgoers are warned to keep their distance. 

“At the top of the bluff near the railroad level, it’s also unstable so north county transit district is putting an officer up there just to keep people out of that area,” Haggerty said.

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