|Location||California State University Monterey Bay in Seaside, CA|
|Description||The July hearing took place at California State University Monterey Bay in Seaside. Commissioners heard several important issues ranging from beach access and coastal armoring to cease and desist orders for the last sand mine in California.|
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|CEMEX Cease and Desist|| Since the early 1900s, sand mining companies have extracted sand from the Monterey coast. Although almost all were eventually shut down, one located in Marina has continued to take sand from the coast for several decades. This plant, owned by CEMEX, has also long been the subject of controversy in the community as it had become apparent that the Monterey coast was the fastest eroding coastline in California, likely due to the sand mining operations. In March, 2016, after years of urging by residents and the accumulation of scientific evidence, the Coastal Commission’s enforcement division informed CEMEX that a cease-and-desist order was imminent. As a result, settlement discussions between the sand mining corporation and Commission staff subsequently followed..
Meanwhile, on May 16, 2017, also in response to community activism, the State Lands Commission (SLC) wrote a letter to CEMEX, stating that the extraction of sand by the dredge pond required a lease that the company did not have and that the extraction of sand from the dredge pond without compensation to the state constituted expropriation of public property in violation of the California Constitution. The SLC further alleged that the sand extraction operation was a nuisance. Then, on June 6, 2017, the Marina City Council adopted a resolution finding that the dredge pond extraction operation constitutes a public nuisance. In the meantime, Commission enforcement staff continued negotiations with CEMEX and ultimately reached a consent order to resolve the alleged Coastal Act violations.
The agreement requires that CEMEX stop sand mining on the property after three years; caps the amount of sand that can be mined during this time; requires CEMEX to remove dredges and other equipment from the property; abstains from causing any further changes in intensity of use; undertakes reclamation of the property and protects sensitive species on site; and ultimately transfers the property to an approved nonprofit or governmental entity for conservation at a reduced price, with a deed restriction to protect the access and the habitat at the site in perpetuity.
Commissioner Mary Shallenberger motioned to approve the consent order pursuant to staff’s recommendation. She offered appreciation to enforcement staff and Cemex for the momentous decision. She added that the 3-year allowance is a reasonable time frame to allow CEMEX wind down operations and transition its staff. Commissioner Donne Brownsey seconded the motion. Commissioners unanimously approved staff’s recommendation and thus marked a momentous and historic decision in support of coastal protection.
|Pacific Grove Retainment Wall|| The City of Pacific Grove proposed to reconstruct a 31-by-5-foot portion of a bluff top retainment wall that collapsed during a storm last winter. The wall protects a coastal trail, outlook point and open space. The City also proposed to remove the fallen bedrock and install new public access amenities.
The Surfrider Foundation and number of local residents raised concerns about the proposed repair given the lack of a long term shoreline management plan for this area, as well as insufficient analysis with regards to environmentally preferred alternatives, need and sea level rise impacts. Notably, there is 80 ft. of open space adjacent to the coastal trail that would provide ample space for this portion of the trail to retreat from the eroding coastline and eliminate the need for retainment wall repairs.
The City of Pacific Grove is currently in violation of permit conditions for repairs to the same retainment wall as it never completed the shoreline management plan required in the 2007 permit. Additionally, the City of Pacific Grove has not yet certified a local coastal program, diminishing their credibility for condition compliance.
Commissioner Donne Brownsey expressed concern about approving this repair citing a need to incorporate more data. Commissioner Mark Vargas said he struggled with the proposal as well due to sea level rise, changing conditions and concern that this may prejudice the shoreline management plan. Commissioner Mary Shallenberger stated she would vote to deny based on the history of violations. She also pointed out that this is how the coast gets armored – one small repair at the time and that a clear option to relocate the trail landward exists.
Commissioner Erik Howell motioned to approve staff’s recommendation. Commissioner Steve Padilla seconded the motion and cited the need for an urgent solution. Commissioner Vargas made an amending motion to reduce the permit duration from 5 to 3 years.
Ultimately, Commissioners approved the permit in a 6-4 vote. In order to fulfill the approved conditions, the City must come back with a shoreline management plan within 3 years and seek a new permit for the repairs.