The California Coastal Commission and an international cement company on Tuesday announced a proposed settlement that would end the mining of coastal sand in Monterey County — the last operation of its type on the mainland United States.
Instead of facing a court battle with the commission over permits, the Mexico-based Cemex company agreed to stop extracting sand from a 400-acre beach site in the city of Marina that has been used for such mining since the early 1900s.
The agreement calls for the corporation to stop operations on the beach within three years and sell the coastal site at a reduced price to a nonprofit organization on the condition that the buyer preserve the property in perpetuity and provide public access.
"The proposal ends the nation's last mainland coastal sand mining operation, a milestone that is both significant and symbolic of the value California attaches to its environmental heritage and its commitment to a sustainable future economy," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, chairman of the State Lands Commission, which participated in the settlement talks.
If approved by the Coastal Commission at its July 13 meeting, agency officials said the settlement will resolve a dispute over whether Cemex had failed to obtain all the necessary state and local permits to dredge sand from the beach.
The company contended it had a right to the sand because the operation predated the passage of the California Coastal Act of 1976, which set the requirements for development, environmental protection, resource management and land uses along the coast.
The proposed agreement resulted from more than a year of negotiations among Cemex, the Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission and Marina city officials.
"We have spent countless hours in confidential talks forging a solution to stop the truly regrettable loss of sand and to protect the beaches in the Monterey Bay," said Lisa Haage, the Coastal Commission's chief of enforcement.
Scientific research indicates that the mining operation has contributed to beach erosion in the Monterey Bay area, which has one of the highest rates of sand loss in the state. Studies also show that sand mined at the Cemex site is replenished by publicly owned minerals from public trust lands that become trapped in the company's dredging area.
Under the proposal, the amount of sand that can be removed during the three-year cessation period is capped at 240,000 tons, or about 177,000 cubic yards, per year. It was estimated in 2016 that the operation was capable of mining 300,000 tons annually.