The nation’s last coastal sand mining operation will close. Thursday the California Coastal Commission approved an agreement with CEMEX to end its operations on the beach in Marina.
The sand mine will stop operations by the end of 2020. During that time CEMEX, the mine’s owner, has agreed to limit the amount of sand it takes off the beach.
“Would I have liked a shorter period of time? Of course,” said California Coastal Commissioner Mary Shallenberger just before the vote.
“But three years given the long, long history and given the cap of the amount of sand that can be taken out. I think is a fairly small price to pay in order to let CEMEX close down the operation gracefully and with concern for their employees,” she continued.
CEMEX will have three additional years to restore the site and transition its employees. Jerae Carlson spoke before the commission on behalf of CEMEX. She’s the company’s Vice President of Sustainability and Public Affairs.
“CEMEX has a fundamental commitment to operate responsibly – caring for our employees, communities and the environment. We believe this agreement honors those commitments,” said Carlson.
The sand mine has been in operation for more than a century. Carlson noted how it has provided jobs for generations of local residents. And supplied sand to local customers like the Monterey Bay Aquarium and CalTrans.
The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the agreement.
“It feels like a bottle of champagne and then it feels like wow,” says Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director of Save Our Shores. The non-profit joined the Surfrider Foundation in its push to shut down the sand mine. The mine violates the California Coastal Act and has been operating without a permit.
O’Dea said this is a good deal because CEMEX had the resources to drag this out into a long legal battle.
“This settlement was really an amazing accomplishment. And the fact that CEMEX came to the table in the long run. I think says something about their social responsibility, although it took a while for them to demonstrate it,” said O’Dea.
The southern Monterey Bay has the highest rate of coastal erosion in the state. Oceanographer Ed Thornton attributes that to the sand mine. He’s a retired Naval Postgraduate School professor who has been studying sand mining in the area for decades.
Thornton expects after the sand mine finally shuts down, the beaches will begin to grow.
“We will see changes and oh for sure. The erosion will slow, and I think it will stop,” said Thornton.
CEMEX has agreed to sell the property to a non-profit or public agency, which will protect the land for conservation and public access.