Years of efforts by Surfrider Foundation's Monterey chapter and partners to shut down the last coastal sand mine in the United States paid off at last Thursday's meeting of the California Coastal Commission. The commission unanimously approved an agreement Thursday with multinational building-supply company CEMEX to shut down its 8-acre sand mine located in the small Monterey County town of Marina.
Under the agreement, Cemex can mine for three more years, but only at a reduced level of 240,000 tons a year (independent verification will ensure the company does not exceed its allowance). At the end of three years, mining will cease completely, then Cemex will have three more years to sell off stockpiled sand and restore the site. Of particular note, the mine must be sold at a less-than-market-rate to an approved nonprofit or government agency – approved by the Coastal Commission – for the purposes of conservation and public access.
Executive Director Jack Ainsworth called the decision "truly historic" and "one of most significant accomplishments in a long list of commission. "The phase out of the last beach sand mine in the United States located in an area with some of the highest erosion rates," he continued, "is just an incredible acheivement... and it opens up this potential for public access and recreational use, which is really exciting."
Commissioner Mary Shallenberger, who made the motion to approve the consent order also voiced her thanks for "our incredible enforcement staff." She added that while she would have liked the shut down to happen in sooner, "three years, given the long, long history and given the cap on the amount of sand that can be taken out, is fairly small price to pay to let Cemex close down this operation gracefully and with concern for their employees and their membership of this community."
Commissioner Donne Brownsey offered a special thanks to environmental advocates. "The work you do is often so unrecognized and sometimes demeaned as being crazy and out there," she said, "but the fact it is your motivation and commitment to not only our California coast today, but to future that has made all the difference. And so your participation, your visibility, and your articulation today of your support for this agreement was extremely meaningful to me and others here."
The consent order is a clear victory for all those who live, work and play on the Monterey coast. Its significance also extends far beyond geographical boundaries. At Surfrider, our mantra is “constant pressure, endlessly applied,” and in a time when so many of our natural resources and protected areas – including our California National Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments – are under threat, to see the perseverance of a small group of citizens and public agencies result in victory is yet further validation that winning is still possible.
More background here.