May Hearing Report

From ActCoastal

By Jennifer Savage | Published 2017/06/14

Act Coastal Updates Button.jpg


Commentary is provided by ActCoastal partners.


This blog represents the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the positions of ActCoastal and its partner organizations.

May Coastal Commission Hearing

The Coastal Commission reconvened in May in San Diego after a short hiatus after the April meeting was canceled due to budget constraints. The May hearing was eventful , with important issues ranging from water use, coastal access, recreation valuation and more – resulting in four vote charts. On Wednesday morning, Coastal Commission staff and experts gave two excellent presentations, the first on coastal dunes and the second on coastal access.

Coastal Dunes

Dr. Leslie Ewing, staff Coastal Engineer, touched on several basic coastal processes that explain how and why our beaches form and the concept of sand budgets. Interestingly, dams and reservoirs interrupt about half of the sediment that comes to the coast to make up our beaches. Other major impacts to sand supply include sand mining and seawalls. Seawalls stop sand from the bluffs from becoming part of the littoral systems. As sea levels rise over the coming decades, beaches would naturally move inland and up. Placement of seawalls and other armoring interfere with this natural process– potentially leading to significant beach loss.

Dr. Patrick Barnard, of the US Geological Survey, highlighted that beaches and adjacent communities are highly vulnerable to climate change across California, especially during El Niño winters. He also pointed towards the CoSMoS sea level rise modeling tool which is soon to have coverage across the state, including beach change projections.

Coastal Access

The coastal access panel included consultants Mike Jones and Annie Hussel as well as UCLA professor, Jon Christenson. The panel presented recent public opinion research supported by Resources Legacy Fund and the State Coastal Conservancy on Californians’ attitudes about the coast and coastal access, as well as barriers to access. The panel began by noting that the future of the coast will rely on Californians’ regard and connection to the coast. This has a direct tie in with how we will address some of our most pressing issues – including sea level rise and coastal erosion. In summary, the survey results showed that overwhelmingly Californians love their coast. According to the survey, 83-94% say that the condition of our beaches and coast are important to them. The panel made several key recommendations to improve coastal access for all Californians. The first was in transportation, suggesting that a partnership with transit authorities to develop a way to move people to the coast would be beneficial. The second was to increase the number of low cost coastal accommodations or at least to preserve the low cost accommodations that currently exists. In addition, the panel recommended focusing legislative attention to the coast, changing the narrative on coastal access to be more inclusive, supporting groups that are changing the culture of access to the coast and recognizing the importance of affordable parking.

AB 1129 – Coastal Access and Preservation Act

During the legislative report, the commission voted to support AB 1129, the Coastal Access and Preservation Act. The bill would specify that emergency permits issued for shoreline protective devices are intended to allow the minimum amount of temporary development necessary to address the emergency situation. The bill would also amend PRC 30821 to allow for the imposition of administrative penalties for unpermitted shoreline protective devices. The bill helps the Commission better enforce existing laws by allowing for penalties and fines for illegal development including shoreline armoring structures. The measure also ensures that any coastal emergency development has a plan for removal. Seawalls fix the shore in place and lead to loss of public beaches and can have detrimental impacts to shoreline habitat. Given impending impacts from sea level rise, all shoreline protective devices must receive extremely careful analysis. Commissioners voted to support the bill 11-1.

For more information visit the vote chart, here.

City of San Diego Secondary Treatment Waiver

The City of San Diego submitted a consistency certification for the reissuance of its secondary treatment waiver for the municipal discharges from its Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Other coastal municipalities that had sought past waivers have now upgraded to secondary treatment. San Diego is pursuing a different approach: as an alternative to upgrading to secondary treatment, they propose to reduce wastewater flows to the plant, through water recycling, which then reduces flows (and pollutant loads) into the ocean.

The City expanded and updated its previous commitments to aggressively pursue water reuse, in a Cooperative Agreement with San Diego Coastkeeper, the San Diego Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, and the San Diego Audubon Society. In it, the City commits to a compliance that will ultimately achieve at least 83 million gallons per day (MGD) of wastewater reuse by the end of 2035. By extending the Secondary Treatment Waiver, the permit will also assure a timeline to the Pure Water project and reduce emissions to the outfall area.

The waiver concurrence was approved unanimously. For more information, visit the vote chart, here.

Solana Beach Public Recreation Fee

The method for calculating a fee for the impact of shoreline armoring to public recreation (i.e. Public Recreation Fee) varies widely and has required ongoing study. The City of Solana Beach has developed a mitigation methodology known as the travel cost method, which it is proposing to incorporate into its certified LUP through this amendment.

When bluff and shoreline armoring are built along the coastline, they have impacts on public access and recreation in the form of lost sandy material that would have otherwise contributed to beach formation and the loss of public recreational opportunities that occur through direct and indirect loss of beach area that would have formed as erosion (usually of bluffs) moves inland.

Staff proposed a number of modifications to the city’s proposed LUP amendment, including modifications to the travel cost method equation, specifically the wage rate used to calculate the opportunity cost of a day at the beach. Staff argued, and were supported by San Francisco State University economist Phil King, that using a low wage rate in the equation as proposed by Solana Beach would lead to a drastic undervaluation of the beach. They also recommended increasing the number of LIDAR data points used to calculate the beach width, for a more accurate snapshot of the beach width over time.

Commissioners voted on two amendments, both of which failed. Ultimately, staff’s recommendation of 67% passed unanimously. For more details, see the vote chart, [here.]

For the full item report, click here. See also vote 2 here and vote 3 here.

You can read last month's full meeting report here. Don't forget to check the Vote Chart for a breakdown of May's key conservation votes.