ALAMEDA -- A $5.3 million project to pump additional sand onto the beach along Shoreline Drive and restore its footprint to what it was 26 years ago will begin in September, East Bay Regional Park district officials have announced.

A barge will be used to deliver the sand to Robert Crown Memorial State Beach and the work will take place in phases. The project is set to be wrapped up in November.

"During this project, the public will be able to access the beach safely across sand fill or ramps over the pipeline, with certain areas restricted as the work progresses from one end of the beach to the other," said Diane Althoff, the district's chief of design and construction.

Some 82,600 cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto the beach and the work will only take place on weekdays in an effort to minimize the disruption to the public.

The park district's board approved the project on July 2, when it earmarked $3 million for the work. The money is coming from its General Fund and from Measure AA, the bond measure that Alameda and Contra Costa county voters passed in 1988 to acquire and maintain park district land.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing $725,000, while additional money is coming from the State Department of Boating and Waterways and through Dubai Star oil spill mitigation funds.

Bids for the work came in above the engineer's estimate by about $2.6 million, according to the district.

"This is a real boon to the people of Alameda, the users of Crown beach, and to the region," Robert Doyle, the park district's general manager, said in a statement. "But with bigger storms and sea level rise in the future, we cannot afford to protect Crown beach without additional partners. The park district had to use emergency reserves to fund the project."

As an artificial beach, Crown beach has no natural source of sand replenishment such as from a creek or river, making annual beach maintenance necessary.

The decision to build the beach came in the early 1980s after water from San Francisco Bay began to seep below Shoreline Drive, the street which borders the beach, and threaten nearby apartment buildings.

About 400,000 cubic yards of medium-to-coarse sand was used to create the approximately two-mile stretch between 1981 and 1988, according to park district officials. Before then the tide lapped just feet from the street.

Along with gradual erosion due to waves and weather, about 20,600 yards of sand washed away in December 2005 when a major storm battered the Island.

"The engineered beach and dune system has performed well beyond its projected 20-year life cycle," Doyle said. "The state Department of Parks and Recreation, city of Alameda, the regional park district and regulatory agencies all agreed that constructing and maintaining a sand beach would provide both the needed erosion protection and desired public access to the shoreline."

Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654.

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