SEAL BEACH : Surfside's Barrier Holds Up, for Now

Surfside's beachfront barrier held tight Friday against a 7.1-foot high tide for the second straight day and took on another role--as a backyard fence at which anxious residents huddled.

The high tides Thursday and Friday brought back uncomfortable memories of the 1983 winter, when Surfside's sand-starved beach was unable to hold back storm-whipped waves from its 260 homes. Thursday and Friday, a few waves splashed over the makeshift barrier and trickled down to sandbags piled in front of homes, but there was no flooding or damage.

The barrier includes a 500-foot-long sand berm and 250-foot-long rock wall.

Friday morning, Seal Beach lifeguards on rescue Jet Skis rode the surf, shooting pictures to document the spectacular waves that crashed against the barricade. Surfside dodged two bullets, but residents know that nature's winter attack isn't over. Two more 7-foot high tides are forecast for Jan. 19 and 20, a more likely time for winter storms to hit in a potentially brutal combination.

"I think the beach is just as bad as it was in '83," said homeowner Steve Belcamino, 54. "I just think we're lucky we have good weather."

Belcamino, a 17-year resident, said the fragile beach is as bad as it's ever been. This year, for the first time, the Army Corps of Engineers did not replenish Surfside's eroding sand because of federal budget cuts.

Friday, under sunny skies, more than two dozen neighbors gathered along the barricade to watch the high tide, jumping back when waves hit too close.

Some took turns looking at Belcamino's scrapbook from the 1983 storm, trading stories about the fire engine that flipped over, the kids who bodysurfed in the streets, the neighbor whose living room filled up with sand.

Others perched on the beach's playground equipment, which usually has several feet of sand in front of it. Friday, the surf swirled right past the half-buried swing set, slide and jungle gym.

Jason Cohn, 26, crawled atop the jungle gym for a better view of the ocean.

Residents are angry, he said, that the federal government reneged on its promise to replenish Surfside's disappearing sand once every five years, due this fall.

"They should have taken care of the problem when they could have," he said. "These homes are going to get trashed if this isn't taken care of."

A corps spokesman said he sympathizes with the residents' plight, but there simply wasn't enough money for the $10-million sand replenishment project.

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