October 2020 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
October 23, 2020
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October 2020 Coastal Commission Meeting Report

The October California Coastal Commission meeting took place virtually from Wednesday, Oct. 8 to Friday, Oct. 10. The Commission deliberated on several important items with coastal resource implications, heard from its sister agencies about the future of Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and discussed a presentation from county supervisors on sea level rise preparation efforts throughout the state.

Oceano Dunes

The contentious issue of what future is best for the only state park currently allowing off-road vehicle use continued to be… contentious. What was originally scheduled to be an action item in which the Commission would consider a coastal development permit based on California’s Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks)’ Public Works Plan (PWP) turned into an informational-only presentation due to the PWP being incomplete.

The Commission granted Parks one year to complete the PWP following an especially charged meeting last July when Parks applied to renew Oceano’s Coastal Development Permit. Commission staff had recommended several conditions that would require Parks to better protect people, animals and habitat, all of which suffer greatly due to Oceano Dunes State Park’s long history as an off-road vehicle (ORV) mecca. For decades Parks has failed to enforce its own rules and regulations, and the community and creatures have been paying the price – and earlier this year was the subject of a Cease-and-Desist Order after Parks staff interfered with nesting snowy plovers.

ORV enthusiasts, however, consider driving on Oceano Dunes an earned right instilled by California’s legislature – and by generations of doing so – despite the fact that Parks has always had only an interim permit. Last week’s meeting revealed that the ongoing conflict has reached the top levels of California’s administration with Deputy Secretary for Ocean and Coastal Policy for the California Natural Resources Agency Mark Gold, Parks Director Armando Quintero, and Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Director Chuck Bonham all addressed the public.

"There's been 40 years of contention on management, recreation and conservation issues over a truly iconic and unique part of California's coast," Gold noted. “This additional time and collaborative process is absolutely critical to find the best path forward for California's biodiversity, wildlife, residents and visitors to the park." He promised that Parks would have the PWP done by mid-December of this year and that it will be informed by a “biodiversity plan” created by DFW. Full coverage here and here.

Local Government Working Group: Joint Statement of Principles for Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning created

In his report, Executive Director Jack Ainsworth provided an update on a key action item from the July 2019 Local Government Workshop: the establishment of the Local Government Working Group consisting of representatives from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the League of California Cities and a Coastal Commission sub-committee (Commissioners Carole Groom and Mike Wilson). The goal of the Local Government Working Group was “to develop strategies to improve collaboration and communications between local governments and the Commission on sea level rise adaptation planning and Local Coastal Program (LCP) updates.”

Over the past year, Ainsworth reported, the Local Government Working Group (Working Group) worked to develop a set of shared principles on sea level rise adaptation to aid in planning going forward. The draft joint statement focuses specifically on what the three entities, working together, can do to address sea level rise in coastal California, specifically relating to Local Coastal Program (LCP) policy development, adaptation planning and project decision-making.

The next step is to bring the Draft Shared Principles of Adaptation Planning to the Commission for discussion and possible adoption at the November 2020 Commission meeting. Adoption of the principles by the Commission, League of Cities and CSAC will thus set the stage for the December 17, 2020 Local Government Workshop that will focus on how the shared principles will be applied in developing meaningful sea level adaptation plans and LCP updates for coastal jurisdictions across the state.

Although the principles and accompanying presentation by Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson and Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold bore some hallmarks of success, the local government working group’s list differs markedly from the Principles for Aligned State Action adopted by 17 of California’s state agencies, a fact pointed out by Surfrider Foundation, specifically how the state’s Principle 6 directs agencies to:

• protect and enhance public trust natural resources, including beaches; • to prioritize the use of nature-based adaptation; • to build coastal resilience by increasing restoration and adaptation projects; • to ensure that adaptation projects do not shift hazards and impacts • elsewhere along the coast; • and to take action to prevent sea level rise from impacting public access.

In contrast the words “restoration,” “resilience,” “nature-based” and “public trust” appear nowhere in the local government working group’s principles – whereas armoring is specifically called out and, in fact, the presentation seemed designed to promote more armoring, a concerning turn considering the greatest threat to equitable coastal access – besides sea level rise itself – is the continued armoring of our coast.

Commissioner Wilson described the local government working group’s principles as “the best we could do.” Commissioner Gold suggested staff provide an analysis of how the local government working group’s principles align with the state’s and expressed concerns about hardening of the coast.

New Sea Level Rise Visualization Will Knock Your Socks Off

Coastal experts constantly postulate (and downright argue with one another) about how future sea level rise will physically manifest in local communities. Accurately envisaging climate change impacts, including future sea level rise and storms, is like pushing a boulder uphill—it’s an elusive concept. Until now! Recently, artistic geniuses from Invisible Thread and Thundercloud produced a video, named “Rise Up,” that synthesizes data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to illustrate the effects of future sea level rise in Capitola, California.

Read on and check out the new video in the Surfrider Foundation’s recent blog post, New Virtual Reality Video Shows Future Sea Level Rise.