San Francisco, Calif. - The California State Lands Commission, an agency responsible for protecting San Francisco Bay, has once again approved permits to let private companies remove harmful levels of sand from the Bay’s floor. On January 30, San Francisco Baykeeper filed a second legal action challenging the increased sand mining.
Excessive sand mining is linked to irreversible erosion at Ocean Beach. This erosion threatens roads and other infrastructure, diminishes habitat for the endangered Snowy Plover, and shrinks beach area for public recreation.
As a result of San Francisco Baykeeper’s first legal challenge to the State Lands Commission’s initial permits in 2015, the California Court of Appeal ordered the agency to reevaluate sand mining levels in light of their responsibility to protect natural resources on behalf of the California public. In response, the agency conducted a perfunctory public analysis and rubber stamped new permits for the same harmful levels of sand mining it had previously approved.
“The State Lands Commission has once again refused to take into account the harm caused by excessive sand mining,” says Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren. “We want them to set limits that are based on sound science.”
Recent scientific research shows that removing sand from the Bay is linked to increased sand loss at Ocean Beach, which has the highest rates of coastal erosion in California. Another state agency, the California Coastal Commission, recommended that the new State Lands Commission permits should reduce sand mining levels by at least 85% to prevent coastal beach erosion.
“State Lands has an explicit responsibility to protect the Bay and beaches for the public,” says Baykeeper Managing Attorney Erica Maharg. “That means setting limits on sand mining that prioritize the use of the Bay’s sand for all Californians, not the interests of private companies.”
Historically, sand mining companies have removed about 1 million cubic yards annually from central San Francisco Bay—a rate that has contributed to the erosion problem at Ocean Beach. Despite the science, in 2012 the State Lands Commission authorized an increase to allow the removal of 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from the central Bay annually.
“Allowing increased sand mining doesn’t make sense,” says Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Baykeeper Executive Director. “San Francisco has pledged to spend millions in tax dollars to restore Ocean Beach and protect the City’s infrastructure from erosion. Yet the State Lands Commission is approving permits that will make our local problems even worse.”
San Francisco Baykeeper uses on-the-water patrols, science, advocacy and the courts to stop San Francisco Bay pollution. For more information, visit us at www.baykeeper.org.