Shutting down the last coastal sand mine in the United States

After nearly 100 years of extensive sand mining in the city of Marina, California, which has ravaged the coastline and decimated local sand supply, CEMEX’s sand mining operations in Marina will finally be shut down.

CEMEX has been under intense and increasing pressure from both state and local entities. In 2016, the California Coastal Commission issued a notice of intent to cease and desist operations at the CEMEX facility; last month, the California State Lands Commission wrote a letter to CEMEX demanding that the company obtain a lease to continue operations. Then, this month, the city of Marina, with the help of Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, took bold action to pass a resolution declaring the Cemex operations to be a public nuisance.

In light of this mounting pressure and the emerging scientific consensus on the adverse impacts from sand mining, the Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission, and the City just reached final settlement agreements (“Agreement”) with CEMEX that will close down the last coastal sand mining operation in the United States.

Under the terms of the Agreement, CEMEX is permitted to continue sand mining at average historical levels until December 2020. After that deadline, the beach will begin to rebound while CEMEX starts a three-year process of cleaning up and restoring the site. Critically, the Agreement also ensures long-term protection of the property: as part of the Agreement, CEMEX will record a deed restriction that the property will only be used for conservation and low-impact, passive recreational uses. The property will be sold to a nonprofit or government entity, which will hold and manage the property pursuant to those uses in perpetuity.

The Agreement is a major victory for the public and for the California coastline. While many had hoped that sand mining operations would immediately cease, the Agreement avoids years of protracted and expensive litigation—during which sand mining would continue—with an uncertain final result. Instead, the Agreement ensures that sand mining will finally stop forever. In addition, the Agreement ensures permanent protection and conservation of this 400-acre coastal property, an outcome that otherwise would not have occurred.

The end of the sand mining era is welcome news for the city of Marina, where sand mining has contributed to the highest shoreline erosion rates in California. In the meantime, the City and the public await further action by the Coastal and State Lands Commissions: the Agreement will not go into effect until after approval by the Coastal Commission on July 13 at the Commission’s monthly meeting and approval by the State Lands Commission on August 17 at its monthly meeting.