Coastal Preservation, Legal, Updates, California Coastal Commission
March 21 2016

Unpermitted Sand Mining Must Stop

by Staley Prom

After submitting hundreds of Petition signatures, offering public testimony to the California Coastal Commission, and submitting a letter to the Commission and the City of Marina, the Surfrider Foundation is pleased that last week, the City and Commission formally acted to begin enforcement proceedings against the Cemex sand mining plant in Marina, California.  The City of Marina formally requested the Commission to assume primary enforcement authority over the sand mine, and the Commission sent a Notice of Intent to commence Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order Proceedings, and penalty proceedings against the mine.

Cemex mines about 200,000 cubic yards of sand a year from a self-made pond right on the beach in Marina.  This is essentially like carrying away one 14-yard dump truck full of sand from the beach every 40 minutes, around the clock.  And this has been going on at the plant for decades – although at lower quantities when operations began – without a requisite Coastal Development Permit.

At that rate, it comes as no surprise that the coast around Cemex is among - if not the - most highly erosive in the state.  Less sand means less beach for the public to enjoy - which the public has a right to enjoy under the public trust doctrine, the California Constitution, and the California Coastal Act.  Cemex’s operations conflict with numerous policies of the Coastal Act and the City’s local coastal program (LCP), particularly those relating to beach access, and those prohibiting degradation of the beach environment, and requiring conservation of its unique qualities.  The City specifically prohibits approving or renewing permits for beach sand mining if it finds that it will have significant adverse impacts on shoreline erosion.

Thus, last year, the Surfrider Foundation, led by its Monterey Chapter, began encouraging the Commission to complete its investigation into Cemex’s operations, which the Commission had been conducting since at least 2009, and for the City and Commission to assert their enforcement authority over the unpermitted sand mining.  The Chapter, working with others in the community, also educated the public about sand mining and its effect on the vital coastal resource of sand, by hosting Sand Wars film screenings and Q & A discussions. 

The Commission’s recent letter of intent is a step in the right direction, stating that Cemex’s unpermitted development violates numerous Coastal Act and LCP policies, and that it appears that no vested rights (or “grandfathered” rights) exist for Cemex’s unpermitted development.  Cemex now has until April 6th to respond, and Surfrider Foundation will continue to monitor the issue and proceedings.  Surfrider fully supports the Commission’s efforts to stop Cemex’s egregious sand mining activities and Coastal Act violations, and to protect and restore the region’s coast and sand resources.

Please click here for more information on the Surfrider Foundation Monterey Chapter’s Cemex campaign, and learn more about the chapter here.