Should the sluice gates be opened at Children’s Pool?
Published - 07/27/19 - 08:15 AM | 3204 views | 4 4 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Aerial view of the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.      RYAN SHORT / VILLAGE NEWS
Aerial view of the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. RYAN SHORT / VILLAGE NEWS
There is a longstanding view among longtime La Jollans that sluice gates built into the crescent-shaped wall that created Children’s Pool could and should be opened to cleanse it.

The seawall and pool were built and financed by La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1932 to protect the shore from oncoming waves, making it the ideal spot for a safe children’s wading area. 

But in the intervening years, the shallow pool has been fouled by waste buildup from harbor seals, who’ve turned the pool into a de facto rookery. Seals bathe, haul out and give birth to their pups on the beach there.

La Jolla Village News asked the City to address whether the sluice gates could still be opened, and if that would cleanse the pool by allowing it to be flushed by natural wave action.

The City’s answer was it is feasible. But as to whether it would be practical, or cost effective to do, the City said right now it isn’t because the old sluiceways are plugged.

“Some time ago the sluiceways were filled with concrete,” said Timothy Graham, supervising City spokesperson. “We don’t know when or why this happened. But we suspect it may have been done in an effort to keep sand on the beach. There was also concern that if the sluiceways were opened, it might undermine the integrity of the walkway structure (seawall).”

Graham referenced the results of a 1998 Sluiceway study done on Children’s Pool seawall, which evaluated the feasibility of opening the four sluice gates in it.

The sluiceway study, done by Testing Engineers - San Diego, Inc., also provided a construction cost estimate for reopening the sluiceways and removing built-up sand on the beach, which was estimated at $40,000 in 1998.

According to the sluiceway study, the original design of the pool breakwater placed 4-feet-wide by 6-feet-high sluiceways through the concrete wall structure. The sluiceways are about 50 feet from the beach at the south end of the breakwater. 

Indications from evidence of debris, styrofoam pieces, candy wrappers, etc. are that there is some water movement through the sluiceways despite the concrete plugs. The study determined openings in the sluiceways probably resulted from wave-action erosion.

In an excerpt from the 1998 sluiceways study: “A jackhammer was used to determine the difficulty in removing the concrete plugs. Although it was possible to break the concrete, the plugs are hard and it will take a considerable amount of energy to remove the concrete blocking the openings.”

The report concluded, “The sluiceways can be opened by removing the concrete plugs that were replaced on the ocean side of the breakwater. Debris will need to be cleared out of the remaining section of each sluiceway. We believe the breakwater was constructed to install a gate and gate hoist over each sluiceway. However, we do not believe that these gates were installed.”

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Tony Ciani
July 28, 2019
The gates have been closed now for at least 65 years. As it is, sand builds up at the open end of the Children's pool, but the outgoing current at the end of the wall transports some sand offshore, but certainly not all of it. Harbor Seals have been using the beach long before they established (or re-established) the rookery in the early 1990s.

The bluff at the head of the sea wall has eroded substantially and opening the gates would likely scour and accelerate erosion at the toe of the bluff. That would lead to a campaign to extend the sea wall eventually destroying more of the natural formations.

July 28, 2019
Thanks for this article!

I think I’ve noticed the sluice gates over the years but never realized their significance or potential. They should be opened, or otherwise just remove the whole wall, returning the shoreline to its natural condition. Not to mention, put an end to this endless controversy of kids versus seals.
Toby Gad
July 28, 2019
this is the only seal rookery in America where people can see a sizable harbor seal colony give birth and raise their pups. It is a treasure and must be protected. Children's Pool gets 1.3 million annual visitors that want to see the seals, they don't come to swim. Opening the gates would disturb the marine life. Seals were hunted until 1970 and just started rebounding in the 90's, but they have been in this area long before the Children's Pool was built. Ellen Browning Scripps if she had lived today, would have protected the seals just like she protected other precious areas like Torrey Pines. We have lost 80% of all mammals in the last 100 years, we need to protect the little wild life that is left. Lastly, this place is not safe for swimming and there have been many rescues, just ask the lifeguards (we did) and they will tell you that there are very dangerous rip currents, only a careless parent would let their children swim there.
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