Posted on January 12, 2021
By Katherine O’Dea
Dec. 31 marked the final taking of sand from the last coastal sand mine in the U.S.– the Cemex Lapis Luster facility – operating on the shores of our Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Marina. The closure was negotiated in July of 2017 as the result of a multi-year advocacy campaign initiated by concerned citizens and activists in Monterey County including Ed Thornton, a Professor of Oceanography at the Naval Post Graduate School; Marina Mayor, Bruce Delgado; Marina City Council member, Kathy Biala; the Monterey Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation; and joined by Save Our Shores in 2016.
Save Our Shores was responsible for elevating the campaign through several high visibility activities while also expanding broad grassroots activism. Among those actions were screenings of the documentary “Sand Wars” followed by panel discussions with local coastal experts like Gary Griggs, Earth Sciences professor at UC Santa Cruz; Jason Scorse, associate professor of Environmental Policy Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and director of the Center for the Blue Economy; as well as State Assembly member Mark Stone. SOS with Surfrider Monterey, coordinated a protest march from the Marina Dunes State Beach north to the mining site where, with permission from the California Coastal Commission, we returned 250 pounds of Lapis Luster sand, the Cemex brand name for the sands taken from the Marina site, which we purchased, ironically, at the Sand City Home Depot. Core members of the opposition campaign also organized large numbers of sign-carrying citizens to attend and speak out at California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission meetings. And, perhaps the most effective action we staged was postcard petition signing events where signers could scoop a small amount of Lapis Luster sand into cellophane envelopes that accompanied the 3,000 cards delivered to relevant state agencies, legislators, and even former Gov. Jerry Brown.
That Cemex has finally had to stop stealing a public resource for profit, is a big deal. Here’s why. Its Marina operation was removing 380,000 cubic yards of sand – the equivalent of 20,000 to 30,000 dump truck loads, annually. The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed the removal of that sand was causing the highest rates of erosion along the entire California coast. In some areas, between Marina and Monterey, that erosion was 80% higher than anywhere else in the state and responsible for the loss of Stilwell Hall at Fort Ord Dunes State Park. The city of Marina also reported that it had lost 75 acres of beach that had been prime endangered Western Snowy Plover habitat. And, walking parts of the shore south of the Cemex facility became virtually impossible during high tides.
Now Cemex has three years to process the sand it has been stockpiling, relocate the 25–30 workers operating the facility, and restore the dune habitat it has destroyed. As part of the negotiated closure, Cemex must sell the property to a non-profit, state agency or collaborating group of non-profits and agencies at a below market valuable determined the by Coastal Commission. The new owners must maintain the site as a conservation area in perpetuity and provide for public access.
The end of sand mining on the shores of our sanctuary is indeed something extraordinary to be grateful for during a year when bad news seemed to be never ending. Thanks, therefore, go to the thousands of community members who participated in this campaign.
Thanks also go to the Coastal Commission, States Lands Commission, and the City of Marina who joined forces to negotiate the closure. After stopping the threat of offshore oil drilling in our Monterey Bay, helping to facilitate an end to Cemex stealing sand from our beloved shores is one of Save Our Shores’ greatest achievements.
Katherine O’Dea, is the Executive Director of Save Our Shores.