Collapsed bluff in Encinitas
The collapsed bluff in Encinitas where three women died. Courtesy OnScene.TV

On Aug. 2 last year, Julie Davis, Annie Clave, Elizabeth Charles and their loved ones were celebrating Elizabeth’s triumph over breast cancer at Grandview Beach in Encinitas. Kids played in the sand; family members reconnected. In a moment, everything changed, as a section of the bluff behind them collapsed, killing all three women.

Tragically, this is not the first time a bluff collapse has killed people in San Diego County. In recent years, there have been a total of eight deaths from bluff collapses in the region.

On Tuesday, we will attend President Trump’s State of the Union address together as part of our ongoing fight to ensure that no one else experiences that tragic loss as the result of another bluff collapse. We are calling for action to secure the bluffs, which are increasingly vulnerable due to climate change, rising sea levels, and high-energy storm swells. The level of urgency cannot be understated.

The federal government has a responsibility to help secure these bluffs. In fact, Congress has authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to contribute tens of millions of dollars for the Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project, which was created to stabilize tall bluffs. The project would replenish vulnerable areas of the beach with additional sand to combat erosion.

Before we can begin project construction, the Army Corps needs to finish planning the project. Congress provided more than $900,000 for planning projects like ours, and in the coming weeks we will see if they listen to our calls and direct some of that funding to North County.

Solana Beach and Encinitas have been ready to move forward — they’ve been active partners in the development of this project for years — but the federal government must do its part.

Advancing this project would be a positive step, but it wouldn’t solve the problem altogether. We also need additional action from local officials to protect beachgoers and coastal infrastructure.

Lifeguards should be trained to move people away from the cliffs, their towers should be reinforced and relocated in some instances, and signage needs to be fixed, re-posted, and added. These simple steps can save lives, and we shouldn’t wait any longer to make them.

Only with an all-hands-on-deck approach, with action from local, state and federal levels, can we do the work that is necessary to keep people safe.

The world lost three extraordinary women too soon. We have joined together to highlight this issue at the State of the Union, to honor their memories, and prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening in our community again.

Dr. Pat Davis lost his wife, one of his daughters, and his sister-in-law from the bluff collapse at Grandview Beach last year. Rep. Mike Levin represents north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties.