April 2022 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
May 7, 2022
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April Meeting Description

The Coastal Commission April meeting took place in Ventura and virtually on April 6-8. The meeting included several controversial items including the Point Reyes National Seashore Water Quality Strategy and Climate Action Plan condition compliance and the Humboldt Offshore Wind Energy Area federal consistency determination. The Commission also approved a new section of coastal trail in Humboldt County, a seasonal beach closure to protect sea lion pups in La Jolla and reconstruction of a precarious storm drain structure on Dockweiler Beach. The meeting resulted in three vote charts.

Legislation and Plastic Pollution

On Wednesday morning, the Commission voted to support AB 2160 (Bennett) to waive or reduce permit fees for specific projects, including habitat restoration and public access. The Commission also voted to support AB 1910 (Garcia) to issue grants for developments that convert public golf courses into affordable housing and open space. Funding will be based on affordable units. The Commission also discussed informational items on the history of state level plastic policies, the status of state and federal efforts to reduce plastic marine debris and approved a resolution to eliminate the use of single-use plastics at Commission meetings. The Commission specifically committed to utilizing Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurant list to select businesses that avoid plastic - this is a small step in the global plastic catastrophe but small market signals like this are needed to prompt businesses and industry to make the systemic changes required to address the root of this problem. Commissioner Linda Escalante motioned to approve the Resolution, seconded by Commissioner Caryl Hart and it was unanimously approved.

Point Reyes National Seashore Condition Compliance

On Thursday, the Commission held a hearing to make a condition compliance determination on the Water Quality Strategy (WQS) and Climate Action Plan (CAP) developed by National Park Service. The WQS and CAP were required by Conditions I and IV of the Coastal Commission’s conditional concurrence on a previous Consistency Determination for the 2020 General Management Plan Amendment for Point Reyes National Seashore and the north district of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County.

Concerns were raised by advocacy groups, including the National Parks Conservation Association and Turtle Island Restoration Network, that water quality testing continually exceeds public health standards and that the NPS strategy and plans are inadequate, lacking objectives and timelines for action. The groups emphasized that, “monitoring is not management.”

Commissioner Mark Gold pointed out that the NPS’ proposed WQS would not give an adequate picture of potential nutrient and algal contamination, which might indicate certain BMPs to address water quality. He also noted that the WQS does not summarize historic data and paints a limited picture. An NPS representative noted that the agency will see how they can incorporate these suggestions. Commissioner Caryl Hart cited a recent Marin Independent Journal article, reporting that inspections found sewage dumping affecting the park and likely coastal water quality. The NPS responded that they are working on agreements between NPS and ranchers to determine who will pay for monitoring and the ranch operation agreements will be revisit annually and may be subject to violations.

Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh made a motion to reject the NPS Water Quality Strategy, seconded by Commissioner Carly Hart. Commissioner Aminzadeh articulated the need for the careful scrutiny and meaning behind consistency determination findings. The motion was unanimously approved.