December 2020 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
December 21, 2020
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The Coastal Commission’s December meeting took place virtually from Wednesday, December 9 through Friday, December 11 with an additional Special Meeting on Thursday, December 17. The last meeting of the year resulted in several important votes. The Coastal Commission approved permits to retain shoreline armoring at Capistrano Beach and the Pacific Grove Coastal Trail. The Coastal Commission also concurred with a consistency determination for the Department of Navy’s Military Readiness Activities in the Point Mugu region. The Commission’s Special Meeting Local Government Public Workshop on Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning resulted in a fruitful discussion on action needed to advance sea level rise planning in 2021. The meeting resulted in one vote chart on the Capistrano Beach Interim Armoring Permit.

Pacific Grove Coastal Trail Armoring

The Coastal Commission approved the Central Coast Deputy Director’s Report on Friday with one immaterial amendment, the Pacific Grove Coastal Trail Protection Project. This amendment permanently authorized shoreline armoring along the Pacific Grove Coastal Trail that was originally given a 3-year temporary authorization in 2017 while the City developed a shoreline management plan. While the City has completed a draft plan, it has not yet been certified or incorporated into the local coastal program. Thus, granting permanent authorization of the seawall was premature and unwarranted. Pacific Grove’s iconic shoreline should remain intact and the utmost care and consideration must be given for alternatives that preserve the coast in its most natural state, especially given pending sea level rise impacts.

The Surfrider Foundation remains adamant in their position that coastal trails are not entitled to shoreline armoring under the Coastal Act. Coastal trails can be rerouted inland, near the coast, in order to avoid both disturbing the natural coastline and the need for shoreline armoring. We should not sacrifice the natural coastline for artificial “access” near the coast. The coast is home to abundant biodiversity that relies on natural shoreline processes, free from coastal armoring and its effects. People rely on a natural coastline for the view, recreation, livelihood and so much more.

Navy Military Readiness Activities Point Mugu Sea Range

On Friday, the Coastal Commission reviewed a consistency determination application from the Department of Navy for their military readiness training activity plan for the Point Mugu Sea Range. The Natural Resources Defense Council led efforts to ensure that the military’s activities take place as much as possible outside of recognized Biologically Important Areas for marine life. The Navy intends to substantially increase testing and training activities in the Point Mugu Sea Range over previous activity levels. This will undoubtedly increase risk of harm to marine mammals, including endangered blue, fin, and humpback whales, and also the gray whale, which is currently undergoing an Unusual Mortality Event. NRDC asked the Coastal Commission to include a reopener clause that would allow the Commission to review the Plan once again if any activities take place within BIAs. While the Commission stopped short of this full requirement, Coastal Commission staff would be reviewing reports from the Navy which will identify whether any activities take place within BIAs. Several Commission implored the Navy to improve their monitoring plan by utilizing the latest technology - as visual observers are known to be ineffective in avoiding shipstrikes and other marine life impacts.

Local Government Public Workshop on Sea Level Rise

The Coastal Commission’s Special Meeting featured a public hearing and joint workshop with the League of Cities, California State Association of Counties, local government officials to discuss sea level rise and implementation of the Joint Statement on Adaptation Planning, which was adopted by the Coastal Commission in November 2020. ActCoastal's full report on this meeting can be found here.