'''October 2019 Hearing Description'''
The Coastal Commission’s October hearing took place in Chula Vista at the City Council Chambers on Wednesday, October 16 through Friday, October 18. A number of controversial items dominated the agenda over the three days of hearings with the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant decommissioning being at the top of that long list. The much anticipated Del Mar local coastal program update was postponed at the City’s request and is expected to come back before the end of the year. Executive Director Jack Ainsworth [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTwwcUD85aE&feature=youtu.be had this to say] about the City’s last minute postponement. The agenda also featured important coastal issues including public access, beach preservation and environmentally sensitive habitat areas. The hearing did not result in any vote charts.
[https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4pZkuYIxZwBpq1ZVx-Q3LA Check out ActCoastal partners' testimony on our Youtube channel!]
'''Navy Marine Mammal Research Presentation'''
You may remember that back in [http://www.actcoastal.org/wiki/June_2018_Hearing_Report June 2018], the U.S. Department of the Navy submitted a consistency determination for their 5-Year Military Readiness Training and Testing Program Activities in Southern California. The training elements involve extensive use of active sonar and explosives. The Coastal Commission objected to their activities and proposed consistence determination. Now, in an effort to build rapport and work cooperatively with the Coastal Commission, the Navy gave a presentation on their marine mammal research at the October hearing. Representatives described their blue whale and Guadalupe fur seal tagging programs. The Surfrider Foundation, on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council commented on the presentation asking whether research about the small, resident population of beaked whales that is continually disrupted and displaced by Navy sonar training would be conducted. The Navy says it will not reduce training in this area so other measures are imperative to reduce harm. Some research on porpoises suggests that the Navy might be able to reduce disruption simply by turning the upsweep into a down sweep. The Navy responded that they don’t’ believe the beaked whales are being impacted at a population level and thus do not intend to modify their activities.
'''San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning'''
On Thursday, Southern California Edison was granted a permit to decommission the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station. In other words, those iconic concrete domes visible from the I-5 will soon cease to be – or rather, will cease to be sometime in the next ten years according to Edison’s estimates of the project timeline. Edison will move forward with decontaminating and removing most of the structures on site.
Unfortunately, what will remain on this coastal site is the radioactive waste, 3.6 million pounds of it. This permit only dealt with deconstructing the infrastructure, not with the waste storage – the Coastal Commission approved the transfer and storage of waste back in 2015.
Surfrider representatives testified at the hearing, asking the Coastal Commission to require additional safety measures be put in place before the decommissioning activities move forward. Surfrider requested that the Coastal Commission include a special condition in the permit that would ensure Edison delay the dismantling of the spent fuel pool island cooling system, which is needed for storing irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pool, until there is an alternate mechanism for repairing a failing canister. At present, the cooling pools would be the only way to repackage spent fuel in the event of a damaged canister. Unfortunately, Commissioners did not address this issue and the request was not incorporated into the final permit.
Edison did indicate that they have a canister repair mechanism in progress, but failed to guarantee that it would be complete before the cooling pools are dismantled. Edison unveiled a tool at the hearing that they are working on to repair a potentially failing canister. Specifically, Edison has developed robotics capable of applying a metallic overlay through a supersonic spray that could repair a potential through-wall crack. However, this does not solve the issue of being able to repackage the waste into a new canister should the need arise and does not ensure transportability as the repair mechanism is not yet approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Here's an image of the robot from a video that Edison played at the hearing:
While the storage of nuclear waste was not a topic of this permit, it was discussed at length due to a number of groups and individuals voicing concerns about transferring the waste out of the cooling pools and into dry storage. Concerned community members also raised questions about the integrity of the equipment Edison was using to contain the waste. In response to a question by Commissioner Donne Brownsey, NRC representative affirmed that the canisters Edison has been using to store the waste are currently transportable for when offsite consolidated or permanent storage becomes available – including with the scratches that resulted from the [https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/getting-nuclear-waste-off-the-beach-at-san-onofre August 2018 downloading event.]
At the hearing, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis as well as SONGS Community Engagement Panel Chair David Victor and other Commissioners, called upon the federal government to fulfill their obligation to provide a permanent repository and to [http://beachapedia.org/Coastal_ISFSI_for_Nuclear_Waste solve the nation’s stranded spent fuel crisis.] Commissioners agreed it was time for the Coastal Commission to send another letter to the federal government urging them to take action and directed staff to do so. Commission Chair Dayna Bochco commented that there may be a lawsuit that should be pursued against the federal government for failure to provide a permanent spent fuel repository.
'''Public Access Violation in Malibu'''
On Thursday, the Commission also issued a consent cease and desist order and administrative find to the Malibu Outrigger Homeowners Association for multiple violations including failing to provide public access to the beach. The HOA was issued a $500,000 consent administrative civil penalty for their violation that dates back to the early 2000s. The HOA will also have to provide lateral public access across the entire stretch of beach fronting its property. Additionally, connecting to this lateral access will be a relocated and improved vertical access easement from Pacific Coast Highway to the beach immediately upcoast of the expanded parking lot. Jennifer Savage from the Surfrider Foundation supported the orders and stated, “Just like beaches without sand make beach access insignificant, laws without enforcement make justice impossible.” Commissioners approved the enforcement action unanimously.
'''Oceano Dunes Update'''
Last July, off-road vehicle enthusiasts showed up to the Coastal Commission hearing to oppose staff’s recommendations to restrict off-road activities and provide for better environmental protections at the Ocean Dunes State Park. [https://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-oceano-dunes-ohv-california-coastal-commission-20190711-story.html Ultimately, despite the overt animosity, the two sides did not come to blows and the Coastal Commission decided to give Parks one more year to complete their public works plan – which must incorporate all the recommendations – and return it to the Commission for approval.] The two are sister agencies, State Parks and Coastal Commission, have pledged to work together toward the common goals spelled out in Commission staff’s report.
At the October hearing, State Parks presented a quarterly update on its public works plan. State Parks described that they are working to conduct public outreach and address environmental and health concerns at Oceano Dunes. Representatives from the Surfrider Foundation San Luis Obispo and the Oceano Community Services District [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obonwEAbguI pleaded with the Commission] to encourage State Parks to take quicker and more drastic action to protect human and environmental health. The update also resulted in a [https://www.newtimesslo.com/sanluisobispo/erik-howell-criticized-for-comments-about-the-oceano-dunes/Content?oid=8949963 controversial discussion] amongst Commissioners.versial discussion] amongst Commissioners.