The CEMEX Lapis Sand Plant in Marina has less than two weeks to respond to a Coastal Commission investigation that could shut it down. At issue is beach erosion in the southern Monterey Bay. The plant is blamed for helping make coastal erosion here the highest in the state.
The CEMEX Lapis Sand Plant sits just off Highway One in Marina. For decades truckloads of sand have been hauled away for use in everything from construction to golf courses and water filtration systems.
“Because it was built and constructed before the Coastal Act it has been grandfathered in to be able to do its operation,” says Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Coastal Preservation Manager with the Surfrider Foundation, a national non-profit that aims to protect the coast. The Monterey Chapter has made shutting down the mine a top priority.
Sekich-Quinn was on a panel at a recent hearing on Beach Erosion and Declining Sand Supplies in Moss Landing. On the screen above her there’s an aerial picture of the CEMEX Lapis Sand Plant. “Essentially you can see it’s a manmade pond that has been continuously filled with sand that is continually dredged,” says Sekich-Quinn.
It’s a system that counts on the ocean washing sand into that pond so it can be pumped out – mining an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of sand a year. “The exact numbers are a bit in question,” says Assembly Member Mark Stone who hosted this hearing.
While it wasn’t specifically about the CEMEX Sand Mine, it’s clearly what people wanted to hear about, so he invited the company to speak. CEMEX declined. But before the event, Assembly Member Stone did tour the sand plant in Marina. He says it employs about 20 people.
“It is interesting to get on the property and see the lagoon and see what the operation actually is. They are doing a pretty good job in terms of dune restoration as part of the project but the fact remains they are taking sand out of the system,” says Assembly Member Stone.
And according the California Coastal Commission it’s all being done without the appropriate permits and in violation of the Coastal Act, which the Commission was established to enforce.
Back in 2010 the Commission launched an investigation into the plant after receiving complaints that CEMEX was using bulldozers to push sand into that dredge pond.
In a letter sent to CEMEX late last week the Coastal Commission said it’s taking the first step toward issuing a Cease and Desist Order to stop the plant’s operation and a Restoration order to address the environmental damage.
The letter goes on to say it does not appear CEMEX is exempt from the Coastal Act despite the mine pre-dating it because it never received the appropriate permits in the first place. In other words, the plant is not grandfathered in.
A CEMEX spokesperson emailed the following statement to KAZU in response to an interview request.
“CEMEX is reviewing the Coastal Commission's letter and disagrees with its assessment. CEMEX operates the Lapis Sand Mine in an environmentally responsible manner and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. We will continue our long-running discussion with the Commission regarding any concerns it has.”
The company has until April 6th to submit its Statement of Defense.