November Hearing Update

From ActCoastal

By ActCoastal | Published 2016/12/16

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Commentary is provided by ActCoastal partners.

This blog represents the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the positions of ActCoastal and its partner organizations.

November Coastal Commission Hearing: an overview

November’s Coastal Commission hearing covered a range of important topics including low cost visitor serving uses, equality as it relates to coastal access, shoreline armoring and notably, the first major Local Coastal Program update since the statewide funding for sea level rise planning was issued. Several vote charts resulted, click here to see how the Commissioner’s voted.

Titans of Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest

Item W11a was submitted by Cartel Management, organizers for “Titans of Mavericks,” the famed one-day big wave surf contest that has taken place near Pillar Point Harbor since 1999. Cartel requested a four-year permit after having been granted a one-year permit by the Commission in 2015. That permit authorized activities including exclusive use of the offshore surfing area, closing a portion of the West Trail and the Pillar Point Marsh parking lot, limiting use of harbor shoreline areas, and implementing traffic and parking controls throughout Princeton-by-the-Sea in San Mateo County.

Titans of Mavericks is a popular event that generates significant public attention to the coast and big wave surfing. However, historically, women have not been invited to compete in the event, raising issues of gender equity given the Coastal Act’s prohibition on use of public coastal resources for exclusionary activities and emphasis on maximizing coastal access for all people.

In approving the 2015 CDP, the Commission instructed Cartel to include a plan for the inclusion of women competitors in 2016-2017 and subsequent event years. Cartel failed to follow these instructions in their 2016 application, promising to include women in the 2017-2018 event instead. When Commission staff indicated they would recommend denial as a result of that failure, Cartel hastily committed to include one heat for women competitors this season and in all future years. Given the 11th hour nature of this offer and continued lack of a detailed plan, the Commission and public remained skeptical of the applicant’s intentions and willingness to comply with the permit.

Commissioners agreed that staff’s recommendation for a four-year permit was not appropriate given the prior history of exclusion at the event, and the significant impacts to public access and recreational use that the event poses by closing the beach area for the day. The Commission ultimately granted a one-year permit and - provided that the event is carried out as conditioned – agreed that a longer term permit may be considered in the future.

Goleta Beach

Item Th19a was a request by Santa Barbara County to amend a CDP to include after-the-fact authorization for installation and retention of three sections of geotextile cells totaling 415 linear feet located downcoast of a previously approved rock revetment near Goleta Beach County Park in Santa Barbara County.

The originally permitted 1,200-foot rock revetment was approved to protect Goleta Park’s public recreational facilities and utilities during periods of erosion. The County violated the original permit on several occasions in the first year, in part due to significant storm damage using unpermitted heavy machinery for emergency construction, failing to remove debris and litter and grooming the beach during the grunion season. In addition, the rock revetment that was supposed to be buried under the sand was exposed, impeding safe access to the beach and exacerbating beach erosion. The project’s failures essentially demonstrated all of the adverse impacts of hard armoring during its first season.

Several Commissioners expressed concern about consistency when evaluating shoreline armoring development, noting that now is the time to “walk the walk” with sea level rise planning to protect public beaches. Other Commissioners were less concerned, remarking that we could approve shoreline armoring now and remove it in 20 years or so, if needed – which goes against the policies established in the Coastal Commission’s Sea level Rise Policy Guidance document.

Hard armoring is currently the prevalent approach to coastal erosion, sea level rise, wave events and storm surges. The armoring at Goleta Beach clearly demonstrates the issues created with hard armoring of our coast, the importance of planning for sea level rise and considering all project alternatives including the least environmentally harmful. As Commissioner Mary Shallenberger put it, “any armoring of the coast kills beaches [...] all of this effort is not the solution to saving our beaches.”

Ultimately, the Commission decided to approve the CDP amendment, agreeing that conditions in the staff report would allow re-evaluation of the development, should violations continue.

Poseidon's Carlsbad Desalination Plant

Poseidon’s Carlsbad Desalination Plant came online in December, 2015 and in its first month the plant had two spills that reached the ocean, multiple monitoring failures and a water quality violation which has persisted. In April, 2016, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board finally sent a notice of violation for toxicity exceeding their effluent limitations See the violation history here. Poseidon is directed to determine the cause of the toxicity but has not yet been able to do so.

At the November 2016 hearing, Surfrider brought Poseidon’s violations to the attention of the Coastal Commission and also raised concerns about broader habitat impacts that should be investigated prior to the plant’s permit renewal in 2017.

For more information on these and other important votes this month, please read the vote chart here. The December Coastal Commission hearing will be held in Ventura, December 7-9. You can view the agenda here.