Coastal Preservation, Legal
May 18 2017

Progress in our Campaign to Keep Sand Where it Belongs – the Beach.

by Staley Prom

This week marked progress in the Surfrider Foundation’s campaign to stop the CEMEX sand mine from egregiously taking sand from the beach in Marina, California.   In a letter penned by Executive Director Jennifer Lucchesi, the California State Lands Commission told CEMEX it must immediately submit a lease application to the Commission for its consideration or cease dredge pond operations at the Lapis plant.

The Commission cited to the fact that CEMEX’s operations, which mine tons of sand – as much as 200,000 cubic yards annually in recent years – from the beach, constitutes a “conversion” (that’s stealing, in legalese) of public trust sand resources.  As the letter notes, the commercial exploitation of a public trust resource (which the state holds and protects on behalf of the public) without compensation to the State, constitutes an expropriation of public property that is prohibited by the California Constitution.

Given CEMEX’s high rates of extraction for many years, without any current permits or leases in place, it’s no surprise that the beaches around CEMEX are eroding faster than anywhere else along California’s coast.   Accordingly, the Commission’s letter also asserts that in addition to the financial and resource loss to California, CEMEX’s operation has also caused environmental damage, public and private property damage, and loss of economic benefit through beach erosion.  This likely constitutes a nuisance, which may be stopped under California case law.

“We are very encouraged by the letter sent to CEMEX by the State Lands Commission which compels CEMEX to either obtain a mining lease or shut down, says Ximena Waissbluth, Surfrider Foundation’s Monterey Chapter’s Special Projects Manager.  “This confirms what we have been arguing all along, that the sand being taken away is a California public trust resource and that State Lands has jurisdiction over it.  We don't yet know what CEMEX's response will be, so we will continue to monitor the issue, and continue to support both the California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission in their efforts to shut the mine down.  After nearly two years on this campaign we are thrilled with this progress, and though we aren't ready to pop the cork yet, we are putting the champagne in the fridge.”

For more information on this recent step by the State Lands Commission, you may check out this media coverage: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/CA-regulators-move-toward-closing-Monterey-Bay-11148546.php + http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/blogs/news_blog/a-state-agency-flexes-its-muscle-against-cemex-this-time/article_ae94f4f6-3a4e-11e7-9a19-272b52a532b5.html.  You may also learn more about Surfrider’s Monterey Chapter, and how to get involved, at the Chapter website.

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