July 2020 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
August 18, 2020
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July 2020 Coastal Commission Meeting Report

The July meeting took place virtually from Wednesday, July 8 to Friday, July 10 as well as an additional day on Thursday, July 16. The agenda built on the Commission’s progress of transitioning to the virtual platform; notably, participants were able to submit video as well as audio testimony. ActCoastal partners commented on several items including the City of Laguna Beach’s parking program, Oceano Dunes Public Works Plan Update and Dust Control permit, and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Inspection and Maintenance Plan. The meeting resulted in one vote chart, the denial of the Laguna Beach Parking Program.

Bolinas Seawall

AMJT Capital, owned by billionaire and Zynga founder Mark Pincus, along with the Bolinas Community Public Utility District applied for a coastal development permit to redevelop and expand a 170-ft long seawall and connecting public access stairway and ramp, on Pincus’ beachfront home in Bolinas, Marin County. The seawall protects an existing home, built before the year the Coastal Act went into effect in 1977, and is therefore entitled to shoreline armoring. Given the owner’s right to have a seawall, the Commission’s task was to ensure the design details protected the public’s right to access the beach to the maximum extent possible.

Based on conversations with coastal engineers and the Bolinas Fire Department, and factoring in accessibility needs, Commission staff recommended the seawall be no wider than seven feet in order to provide more sandy beach for the public; Pincus wanted 16. The difference between the two would amount to about 2,500 square feet – or about 150 beach towels.

Ultimately, Commissioners compromised and approved an eight-foot wide seawall in a split 7-5 vote. Check out the Surfrider Foundation’s blog with all the thrilling details of this controversy and lively Commission deliberations, Money Can’t Buy Everything... For Example, A Really Big Coastal Seawall in California in This One Situation I will Tell You About.

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Inspection and Maintenance Plan

The Coastal Commission’s three-days- a-month meeting schedule has been the norm for decades. However, given the challenges of hosting their meetings virtually, the Commission held an unprecedented fourth day for their July agenda. The Commission met on Thursday, July 16 for a one-item agenda to review the Inspection and Maintenance Program (IMP) for spent nuclear fuel storage installation at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, as required in their 2015 coastal development permit which authorized spent fuel storage on site at San Onofre.

While the federal government has most of the authority and responsibility to safely manage spent nuclear fuel, the Coastal Commission also plays a critical role in ensuring safe storage of the fuel, in this case a mere 100 feet from an eroding shoreline.

Several groups raised concerns with the IMP including Public Watchdogs, San Clemente Green, Samuel Lawrence Foundation and others, citing inadequate on-site safety measures, and called for retention of the cooling pools and a halting of waste transfer to dry storage.

The Surfrider Foundation also cited several concerns with the IMP, namely, that it lacked sufficient planning for a potential emergency with the stored spent fuel, however unlikely. Specifically, Surfrider urged the Commission to make the following changes to the IMP:

  • Increase canister monitoring frequency and sampling size to ensure canisters remain intact and transportable
  • Require additional vetting of the metallic overlay method before approval
  • Require a defined plan for exploring alternative repair and storage mechanisms
  • Require analysis as to whether an overpack is actually legally adequate for offsite transfer in the case of a damaged canister
  • Analyze possibility of a hot cell on site to repackage a damaged canister
  • Include a trigger for relocating the ISFSI onsite or offsite in response to potential coastal hazards, such as coastal erosion, rising sea levels or groundwater rise.

Coastal Commissioners expressed concerns and sympathized with the public, however, cited insufficient subject matter expertise and declined to recommend any of the public’s proposed modifications to the IMP.

Oceano Dunes

The Coastal Commission’s agenda on Thursday, July 9 considered two separate items regarding Oceano Dunes. First, the Commission heard an quarterly status update as to State Park’s progress on their Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (ODSVRA) Public Works Plan (PWP) efforts. The updates have left much of the public feeling frustrated by the apparent lack of progress towards instating environmental and public health protections into the plan for the park. Driving on the beach is currently prohibited through October due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as several Endangered Species Act violations committed by State Parks employees. Many are calling for a permanent ban on vehicular use on the beach and dunes that will allow the ecosystem to thrive, including endangered Snowy Plovers.

The second item was the application of State Parks (on remand from a court decision) to implement a five-year program (between 2017 and 2022) to reduce dust and particulate matter emissions at ODSVRA. Residents from the City of Grover Beach and the unincorporated community of Oceano in southern San Luis Obispo County have long complained of ill health effects caused by the dust kicked up by those driving on the beach. State Parks was seeking approval for an amended plan to:

1) allow an additional 52.2 acres of permanent dust control mitigation in the dunes at ODSVRA; 2) recognize 48 acres where such mitigation has already been completed through emergency CDP (ECDP) authorization; 3) recognize, after-the fact (ATF), 4.2 acres where such mitigation has already been completed without the benefit of a CDP; and 4) recognize ATF 40 acres of seasonal wind fencing that has already been installed without the required Coastal Commission authorization. All at ODSVRA, which spans the City of Grover Beach and the unincorporated community of Oceano in southern San Luis Obispo County.

Commissioners approved this plan with modifications to permanently discontinue vehicular, OHV, camping and other non-habitat uses within 156.2 acres, fencing off these areas to protect them, and planting native dune vegetation within the fenced off areas. The Commission also required additional dust control measures including more extensive fencing.

As always, check out ActCoastal partner testimony from the meeting on our YouTube channel.