The “Nautical Ladder” development at Santa Rosaliita, or
How to divide a town, step by step.
How to divide a town, step by step.
A study done by Algalita Marine Reseach Foundation, the Autonomous University of Baja California and CISESE, (a Mexican Gov’t. Research Institution) prior to the proposed development of a “Port of Refuge” on Baja California’s pacific coast which would also have the capacity to trailer boats from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez, showed the coastal environment of Santa Rosaliita to be in a pristine, unaltered condition. The small fishing village there was having no measurable effect on the local marine environment. The location chosen for the nautical ladder development promulgated by President Fox was in the middle of a sandy beach, with sand dunes upwind. The fishing village was mostly to the southeast, and a well-known windsurfing site was to the northwest.
From a coastal engineers standpoint, the area selected was in the middle of a “littoral cell,” which is an area where sand is transported along a coastline. It has come to be known that jetties built out from littoral cells accumulate sand up-current, and erode sand down-current from the jetty. The town was down-current. One of the early settlers of the town, whose property was on the east side, is rumored to have enticed his brother, under the influence of alcohol, to sign over title to his land on the west side and then this individual, with enough land to accommodate the highway and marina, ceded his land to the government for the marina development in exchange for money and rights to concessions at the new facility. He also built himself a large home at the top of the hill behind the town overlooking the marina. Advice from several quarters to put the marina at the southeastern end of the town, where the sand beach changed to rocky coastline went unheeded, and the jetties for the small harbor were built, right in the middle of a windswept, blowing sand beach. The results as monitored by Dr. Azdrubal Martinez of UABC for AMRF were predictable: 1) A gradual lessening of the slope of the beach with sand deposition seaward of the jetty, 2) A steepening of the beach with erosion in front of the town, and 3) Constant filling of the interior of the marina with sand, both blown by the wind and washed in by the sea.
Currently, the small warehouse where the artisanal fishery loads its catch into a refrigerated truck, is inundated with water during winter storms, and one of the houses built near the coast has lost a fence and a bathroom. The individual who ceded land for the marina began to make representations to government officials that he was the owner of the whole town. He was advised by his attorneys to pretend he didn’t know anybody in the town, presumably to add credibility to his claim that they were not original inhabitants. FONATUR, the government tourism agency, claimed they bought the whole town from this individual. To assert their claim, they began by bulldozing the soccer field and were preparing to do the same to the cemetery in order to build a hotel. The meager income of the fishermen had to be used to buy gasoline to drive to the government seat in San Quintin every 15 days to sign papers to gain rights to their property. When FONATUR was frustrated in their attempt to take the whole town, they decided to take the back part and put up a fence. Four village people went to jail for tearing down the fence, but actually the whole town participated. Their fine was set at $700/each but was reduced to $500 because that is all the money the townspeople had when they went to bail them out.
Since the standoff, the marina infrastructure has been completed, but sits idle. Two large Pemex fuel tanks are on the dock and a travel lift is ready to lift vessels up to a 22 foot beam for trailering to Los Angeles Bay on the gulf side of the peninsula. This presents a tragi-comic scene in a marina which is filled with sand, and where there is water, the average depth is about 2 feet. One improvement that the townspeople seem happy with is the arrival of electricity. Two months ago, the installation was complete with telephone poles, and every two months someone comes to read the electric meter in front of each house. The fishermen still use their solar panels to charge batteries and provide electricity like before during the frequent power outages on the new line.
Today, Santa Rosaliita is a town split in two. The family of the turncoat is isolated in their hilltop home and charge $5 a night for campers to camp at the windsurfing spot northwest of town. Members of the family on the hill do not enter the main town, nor do their children play with the children in town. They have a fine view of the bay, and the marina they helped create which will never service a vessel until major changes are made. The interior will have to be dredged almost continuously, as every day winds blow in large quantities of sand and currents bring sand in from upstream. The sand has made a ramp for itself over the jetty rocks, further facilitating its entry into the marina.
We spent a great deal of the day while in the town of Santa Rosaliita walking around talking with people and trying to better understand the scale of the changes already occuring to the beach and the town as well as how this place will change in the seasons and years to come. This harbor has only been in place for a few years now and already there is sand out to the end of the jetty on the windward side. The sand slopes up to the tops of the rocks covering them almost completely in spots, the new berm acts like a ramp for blowing sand which comes over it at an incredible rate even on a calm day depositing into the harbor on the other side. I can’t imagine this place ever being usable, much less profitable since the only way anyone will ever get to use the boat ramp and hoist will be to install a permanent dredge on sight.
Good photos of the calamity were a big part of the reason we made the trip, and I took lots of them.
Since we are saving bandwidth and emailing material in a semi-finished form to our friend Tim at Seanet Electronics in San Diego I’m captioning the photos by file name all in one place.
The gas dock at Santa Rosaliita and the piers for the boat hoist.
The beach where our dingy is tied up was designed to accomidate easily a 50 foot power boat. The pier on the lefthand side is the outside pier of the 23 foot beam vertical hoist.
The new house of the man who no one talks to anymore, on his scenic hillside overlooking the unfinnished harbor.
The new road isnt safe from the shifting sand either, and in the calmest season it is still covered in sand in several spots.
The same guy that claimed to own the town and sold it to the govornment tries to charge people 5 dollars a night to camp on the newly improved beach above to the town and the harbor.
The town and harbor of Santa Rosaliita, note the breakwall which now has beach extending the length of what was a jetty sticking out perpendicularly to the shoreline.
The new beach
The next generation of Santa Rosaliita residence.
Checking the meter; the town of Santa Rosaliita got hooked into the power grid 2 months ago.