Friday, January 20, 2012
January CA Coastal Commission Report
|Photo: California Coastal Commission|
The January Coastal Commission meeting was interesting and unique on a few levels. There was one item on the agenda that spurred passionate debate. There were other items that called for progressive thinking about costal issues. And on the last day of the meetings, the Commission took a rare field trip to analyze public access along the coastline around Los Angeles. In this report, we will focus on a few agenda items that apply to Surfrider Foundation’s mission statement.
Probably one of the most interesting aspects of the meeting came from an elaborate Staff presentation on a report about public access. As way of background, the Coastal Act mandates public access along the coast and sets strict requirements for any development projects along the coast to provide public access.
The Staff report focused primarily on public access ways in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties. The report found that Los Angeles County greatly lags behind other counties in southern California for providing public access. The report illustrated that 60% of the 111 areas of land the Commission has required landowners to provide access from San Diego to San Luis Obispo counties have been built and opened, compared with 38% in L.A. County. San Diego and Orange counties scored the best, with 85% and 73% of their agreed-upon pathways completed. To view the report go here:
Violations Against Coastal And Archeological Resources:
In my opinion, the most fascinating item on the agenda was a cease and desist order to the Goodell family to:
1.) stop unpermitted development, including but not limited to excavation and deposition of excavated soil; 2) stabilize excavated areas; 3) arrange for Native American monitors to oversee all work conducted pursuant to these Consent Orders; 4) screen excavated soil for cultural and archaeological materials; 5) protect in place, document, and rebury all cultural and archaeological materials encountered during work conducted pursuant to these Consent Orders; 6) stop maintaining existing unpermitted development consisting of excavations, excavated soil, and any associated results thereof, on property located east of the intersection of Brightwater Drive and Bolsa Chica Street.
In a nutshell, the Bolsa Chica mesa contains massive archeological assets (part of them are contained on the Goodell property). This 9,000-year-old archeological area contains artifacts and is also considered extremely sacred among Native Americans because it contains a burial site. The Goodell family took it upon themselves to dig 16 pits to explore the land (without a permit)—and called it “a mistake”. When the Coastal Commission found out about the illegal digging they issued a cease and desist. It’s unfortunate the family ruined the integrity of the archeological site, and to make matters worse, they also caused harm to coastal resources by subjecting the land to undue erosion from all the digging (which is why Surfrider paid attention to this issue).
The CCC Staff presented their findings and in addition to recommending the above actions, they proposed a mitigation fee of $130,000. This fee was based on the lowest fine possible for the combined 16 infractions. The Commission agreed with Staff’s recommendations, but there was no way they were going to agree on the mitigation fee! Commissioner Sanchez was very vocal about her disappointment in the Goodell family’s violations. She said she felt the $130,000 was an insult. Chair Shellenberger said that it’s hard to believe this was a mistake—anybody who has read the LA Times over the past decade knows the area has archeological significance. Commissioner Bloom declared that anyone who harms archeological resources on public or private land must be held accountable.
After much debate about the mitigation fee, Commission asked Staff to take a break and figure out the maximum amount for fines. After a long break, Staff returned to clarify the highest amount for unintentional violations would be $430,000 (based on the 16 pits dug). They suggested this be the fine since it’s challenging to prove the act was intentional. The fee for an intentional violation is $480,000. Commissioner Sanchez once again spoke out about the injustice and said that she thinks the family should pay a half a million dollars to “make things right”. Since the Commissioners had no hard evidence the violations were intentional, the motion was to fine the family the maximum penalty for unintentional violations. The Commission adopted the motion, but Commissioner Sanchez cast a dissenting vote saying she didn’t believe it was unintentional and they should pay $500,000. After the vote was approved, the Commission concluded by saying violations this egregious will be taken seriously—and they hope the high mitigation deters people from committing these types of actions in the future.
Amendment of Local Coastal Plan (LCP):
One of the most encouraging agenda items came from the City of Manhattan Beach to amend their LCP. This was exciting because the amendment included new regulations to address sustainable development—including water efficient landscaping, green roofs and decks, and renewable energy. Surfirder applauds the City of Manhattan Beach in taking steps to address water waste and improve energy efficiency.
Offshore Oil Drilling and Exploration Issue:
Another positive aspect of the meeting came when Santa Barbara County requested to amend a portion of its Local Coastal Program to clarify that hydraulic fracturing of existing or new wells is not a permitted use under exploration and is subject to approval of a Production Plan, Coastal Development Permit, and in some zone districts, a Conditional Use Permit.
This amendment added language to the LCP that reaffirmed fracturing is not a permitted used for exploration/production, and if it is conducted, it must be described in a permit application. This is a positive step to ensuring that hydraulic fracturing is closely monitored. The Western States Petroleum Association presented testimony in regards to the item. The spokesperson said they were not there to testify against it, but attended the hearing to say hydraulic fracturing can be done safely. Commission voted unanimously to add clarity to the LCP.
Shoreline Armoring Issue:
The next issue we monitored was an application of Tu Casa HOA for maintenance of existing revetment to include returning dislodged rocks back on revetment, after-the-fact approval. Surfrider is always curious to watch revetment projects becasue we are concerned about coastal armoring since it ultimately interferes with the natural flow of sand to our beaches. This project however was a straightforward case in which the applicant was fixing “Pre Coastal Act” revetment. The project called for relocating rocks away from public access. Commission Staff said the maintenance was not classified a realignment and therefore it’s not considered a new project—Commission agreed and voted unanimously to approve. This was a win-win…less revetment and more public access.
Stay tuned for Surfrider’s February report on the Coastal Commission…
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
January Policy Update
|Photo: San Diego Chapter.|
January’s policy update is packed with many issues. While the update only covers a fraction of California coastal issues, we tried to pick topics that are germane to Surfrider supporters. Remember that your local Chapters are working on a myriad of issues and always need the help. Make a New Years resolution to volunteer more with your local chapter!
California State Beaches: Lifeguard-less?
Over the last several months, Surfrider has written about the plan to close 70 state parks--the proposal has been on the table in order to help close the budget gap. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is a new proposal to eliminate all seasonal lifeguards and 20 percent of ranger positions in California state parks if the governor’s November ballot initiative for new revenue isn’t successful. Despite the fact that a decision on that initiative is ten months away, the governor is demanding that these state park reductions be made this spring.
Closing parks and eliminating lifeguards would directly impact Surfrider members who use State Beaches on a regular basis. Contact the Governor and tell him that closing parks is bad for California! Ask him to reverse the permanent cuts to state parks and keep our parks safe and open for all Californians.
King tides. It sounds so regal, doesn’t it? Well, it is! King Tides are events occurring in early winter where the high tide is unusually higher than typical tides throughout the year. Surfrider, along with California Coastkeeper Alliance, is encouraging people to participate in the King Tide Photo Project, in order to document and help understand the impacts of sea level rise in the coming decades. Grab your camera!
Getting Strategic With It:
The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) recently released its Draft Five Year Strategic Plan. Surfrider Foundation staff worked diligently to provide our feedback on the Strategic Plan by focusing our attention on the following areas: climate change, marine ecosystems, coastal/ocean impacts from land, and existing and emerging ocean uses. The OPC was created under the California Ocean Protection Act (COPA), which was signed into law in 2004 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The OPC's mission statement is to ensure that California maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. Read our comment letter here.
This Beach is My Land….This Beach is Your Land…
California Coastal Commissioners jumped in a bus and took a tour of beaches in Malibu to get a closer look at beach access issues. Prior to this visit, the California Coastal Commission recently completed a report about the status of public access ways in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties. The report found that Los Angeles County greatly lags behind other counties in southern California for providing public access. Surfrider tips our hat to the Commission for pounding the beach in order to better understand obstacles blocking public access. Read more about their trip here.
It’s Fun to Play…in Marine Protected Areas.
On January 1, 2012, southern California became the proud owner of newly established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). After a multi-year process, these new MPAs are hoped to bring about renewed ocean health to marine life and habitat. Check out our recent blog about the establishment of MPAs.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
New Marine Protected Areas In Effect!
On January 1, 2012 southern California welcomed a series of newly established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These MPAs will join a growing statewide system that will soon stretch the length of California’s coast. They were created through the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). These MPAs were designed by local stakeholders to protect the most productive areas of ocean while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing (see a map of fishing areas left open). Most of the new protected areas are adjacent to public beaches and state parks, creating great opportunities for recreation.
For over the past 3 years, Surfrider has been working with a diverse group of people to ensure MPAs are well designed and effectively implemented. View Surfrider’s statement the final maps adopted and the work we conducted throughout the process.
|San Diego Community Forum. Nov 9, 2011|
During the month of November 2011, Surfrider held community forums to educate local communities and ocean-users about the new MPAs and their regulations. We held 4 forums around the region and over 100 environmentalists, fishermen, business owners, and elected officials attended the meetings.
To ensure these MPAs are successful in the long run, the state and other organizations will be and monitoring the progress of MPAs. Learn more about Reef Check’s program.
To view all the MPAs in the south coast visit here.
To use a mobile phone to identify coordinates and regulations for each MPA go here.
Go here for a great recent news articles.