Category Archives: Articles & Dossiers

The only answer to rising seas is to retreat; By Orrin H. Pilkey & Keith C. Pilkey

Photograph courtesy of: © William Neal, Orrin Pilkey & Norma Longo.


Currently, beach nourishment is the preferred solution to holding the shoreline in place to protect development, but beach nourishment will not be possible with a three-foot sea level rise. The alternatives to retreat are eventual beach-less communities with massive seawalls…

Except for the timing, there is no controversy among scientists regarding sea level rise.
Defending the coast and holding the shoreline in place ultimately will be futile. With a three-foot or a six-foot sea level rise, we will retreat, probably beginning within the next 50 years…

Read Full Article; The News & Observer (10-18-2017)

Rising seas threaten nearly $1 trillion worth of US homes, and most of them are moderately priced; CNBC (10-18-2017)
If sea levels were to rise 6 feet, 1.9 million homes, or $916 billion worth of U.S. residential real estate, could be lost, according to a new report…

We can’t ignore the rising sea; By Orrin H. Pilkey (06-15-2016)

Sea Level Rise Will Reshape U.S. Population In All 50 States; Yale E360 (04-19-2017)
Sea level rise could cause mass migrations that will affect not just the United States’ East Coast, but reshape communities deep in the heart of the country, according to new research…

How rising seas and coastal storms drowned the U.S. flood insurance program; Yale E360 (04-19-2017)
Sea level rise and more severe storms are overwhelming U.S. coastal communities, causing billions of dollars in damage and essentially bankrupting the federal flood insurance program. Yet rebuilding continues, despite warnings that far more properties will soon be underwater…

Let’s end war with ocean, Op-Ed by Orrin H. Pilkey
The immediate future most certainly holds more miles of sandbags, resulting in more narrowed and ugly beaches.But this trend can be halted and reversed. Now is the time to make peace with the ocean.The time is now to stop sandbagging, both physically with no more shore-hardening structures, and politically with no more exceptions to the intent of the rules, no more undermining existing legislation, and a return to enforcement…

“Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change,” A book by Orrin H. Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C. Pilkey
“Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change” is a big-picture, policy-oriented book that explains in gripping terms, what rising oceans will do to coastal cities and the drastic actions we must take now to remove vulnerable populations.


Photo source: ©© Sami Keinänen


“There’s a new front in President Trump’s war on our environment: Alaska’s spectacular Bristol Bay. The Trump administration cut a backroom deal with a foreign mining company to bring the toxic gold and copper Pebble Mine back from the dead. And if we don’t stop them, the resulting pollution and environmental destruction would be a catastrophe for the wildlife and communities that call Bristol Bay home.” —NRDC


Read Full Article And Learn More, NRDC
The Trump administration is paving the way for the disastrous Pebble Mine — the toxic, gold and copper mega-mine that poses catastrophic risks to Alaska’s spectacular Bristol Bay and its world-renowned salmon runs, abundant wildlife populations, and Native communities.
President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency proposed common-sense restrictions that would have banned this dangerous mine because of the obvious environmental risks it would pose…

Photo source: ©© Angela AlaskaTeacher

Walker doubles down on opposing Pebble Mine, Alaska; Alaska Public Radio (10-04-2017)

First glance at Pebble’s new plans; KDLG (10-05-2017)
Company reduced the scope of the project to 5.4 square miles, which would impact “negligible” amounts of fish habitat in the North and South Fork Koktuli drainages, says CEO Tom Collier…

A Tale of Two Futures: Alaskan Wild Salmon vs. the Pebble Mine; Huffington Green (09-06-2017)
No region on Earth is more conducive to wild salmon than the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska. Bristol Bay has a well-earned reputation as the “Fort Knox of wild salmon” – a place where annual salmon runs are measured not in the hundreds, not in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands, but in the tens of millions…

The Wild Alaskan Lands at Stake If the Pebble Mine Moves Ahead; Yale E360 (07-31-2015)

I Went All the Way to the Alaskan Wilderness to Escape Donald Trump, But You Don’t Have To; The Newyorker (09-07-2017)
…In any event, its effect, at least on me, has been to make it harder to focus on the biggest and scariest threats that his Presidency represents, the rips he’s trying to tear in the physical fabric of our planet and the social fabric of our nation…

Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean: A Push into Uncharted Waters, Yale E360 (06-09-2015)

Drilling Will Cost the Arctic its Wildness, Adventure Journal (12-12-2013)

Save The Arctic Video, Greenpeace, (Uploaded 07-03-2012)

Photo source: USGS

Florida without its beaches: Seawall dooms state oceanfronts, By Robert Young

Seawall and beach erosion. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued an emergency authorization last week that will allow individual property owners in a portion of St. Johns County to build new seawalls without the typical engineering and scientific analysis.

This is a terrible mistake for the communities impacted. It is poor coastal management. And it will set a terrible precedent for future storm impacts in other areas of the state…

Read Full Article; Orlando Sentinel (09-25-2017)

“Seawalls Kill Beaches,” Open Letters by Warner Chabot And Rob Young; (10-03-2014)

Seawalls: Ecological effects of coastal armoring in soft sediment environments; Science Daily (07-24-2017)
For nearly a century, America’s coasts — particularly those with large urban populations — have been armored with human made structures such as seawalls. These structures essentially draw a line in the sand that constrains the ability of the shoreline to respond to changes in sea level and other dynamic coastal processes…

What Harvey means for future storms across the nation; Op Ed By orrin H. Pilkey

Astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photo of Tropical Storm Harvey from the International Space Station on Aug. 28 at 1:27 p.m. CDT. Captions and photo source: NASA


Forewarning about the path and future disastrous evolution of Hurricane Harvey proved to be quite accurate. Hurricane Harvey may be an example of the long-predicted intensification of storms resulting from the warming of the seas.

As in every storm I’ve watched (always from afar), local residents are quoted as saying they are not leaving because they’ve already experienced hurricanes. What Harvey tells us is that experience in past storms is not useful because each hurricane is unique and dramatically different from others. Certainly Harvey is different, not only because it has hung around for days but also because a major city is in the center of the chaos and destruction.

Lessons, however, have been learned from past storms…

Read Full Article; The News & Observer (08-30-2017)

It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly; Guardian UK (08-28-2017)

As the climate warms, we are ‘primed’ for worse storms than Sandy; Science Daily (10-06-2016)
With the climate warming and the sea level rising, conditions are ripe for storms deadlier and more devastating than Sandy that put more people at risk. If damaging storms become more frequent, retreat from areas with mounting repetitive losses will become a topic of discussion…

Hurricane Matthew’s Destructive Storm Surges Hint at New Normal; National Geographic (11-10-2016)
The coastal U.S. is highly vulnerable to rising seas, which are expected to surge in the coming years. Will this storm be a wake-up call?

Sea-Level Rise Poses Hard Choice for Two Neighborhoods: Rebuild or Retreat? Take Part (04-25-2015)

‘Repetitive Loss’ Properties Raise Debate Over Rebuilding After Floods; Hartford Courant (10-13-2015)

How rising seas and coastal storms drowned the U.S. flood insurance program; Yale E360 (04-19-2017)
Sea level rise and more severe storms are overwhelming U.S. coastal communities, causing billions of dollars in damage and essentially bankrupting the federal flood insurance program. Yet rebuilding continues, despite warnings that far more properties will soon be underwater…

After Hurricane Sandy, One Man Tries To Stop The Reconstruction, Outside Magazine (10-09-2013)
Geologist Orrin Pilkey predicted exactly what a storm like Sandy would do to the mid-Atlantic coast and New York City. On a tour of destruction after the deluge, he and David Gessner ponder a troubling question: Why are people rebuilding, as if all this isn’t going to happen again?

Sea Level Rise Will Reshape U.S. Population In All 50 States; Yale E360 (04-19-2017)
Sea level rise could cause mass migrations that will affect not just the United States’ East Coast, but reshape communities deep in the heart of the country, according to new research…

Column: High-rises spell the end for Florida beaches; By Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper

A Gulf Coast of Florida community. Captions and Photograph courtesy of:© Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper


Floridians are becoming more attuned to sea level rise and more familiar with nuisance flooding related to the rising sea. However, we believe there is less recognition that by century’s end it is likely that most of Florida’s major beaches will be permanently gone.

Florida has some of the most famous and glamorous beaches in the world that rank right along with the likes of Rio de Janeiro, the Gold Coast of Australia and Waikiki. All these famous beaches around the world have much in common as they are prime spots for national and international vacationers. Unfortunately, another common denominator is that these beaches are lined with high-rise buildings…

Read Full Article; Tampa Bay (07-25-2017)

The end of the world’s most famous beaches; By Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper (07-2017)
All over the world there are beaches lined with condos, hotels, restaurants and the like, in high-rise buildings (i.e., skyscrapers). Such beaches are generally the nation’s premier tourist areas, important to the local people and the local economy and prime spots for national and international vacationers. The powers that be in most of these places continue high-rise construction and seem oblivious of the sea level rise…

An Evaluation of the Ongoing Impacts of Sand Mining at the CEMEX Lapis Sand Plant in Marina, California on the Southern Monterey Bay Shoreline; By Robert S. Young, PhD

Figure 1. Aerial view of the Lapis Sand Plant, Marina, CA.

© By Robert S. Young, PhD, PG,Professor of Geology, Western Carolina University Director, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines

Purpose and Overview:

The City of Marina commissioned this report to assist in its management and decision‐making for coastal property and resources within the City’s jurisdiction. Consistent with that purpose, this report provides a review and synthesis of available documentary information and scientific literature addressing the impact of current sand mining activities within southern Monterey Bay. To assist in preparation of this report, in March 2017, the author visited the Lapis Sand Mine, the site of current beach sand mining activities in the City of Marina. It is my understanding that the Lapis Sand Mine is the only coastal mining activity in Monterey County at this time, and that other sand mining operations that previously operated along the Monterey Bay shoreline ceased operations in the late 1980s. Accordingly, all references to ongoing beach sand mining in this report are to the Lapis Sand Mining operation in the City of Marina.

This report is intended for an informed lay audience and, in particular, for City of Marina officials seeking to base coastal management decisions on the best available science. It provides a distillation of the most relevant facts and science related to the basic question: “Are sand mining activities at the Lapis Sand Mine (Figure 1) impacting the sediment budget and shoreline change rates in the vicinity of the mine?” Based on my review of the available information, data, and scientific literature, I conclude that beach sand extraction by the Lapis Sand Mine constitutes a significant source of sand loss from the southern Monterey Bay central littoral cell and, as a result, is causing or contributing to significant adverse effects on coastal property, resources, and uses.

The portions of southern Monterey Bay shoreline have the highest erosion rates in the state. None of the documents reviewed for this report can offer any explanation for these anomalously high erosion rates beyond the sand extraction from the littoral zone at the Lapis Mine. The overwhelming evidence leads me to conclude that continued sand mining activities have led to a substantial sand deficit in southern Monterey Bay. This sand deficit is driving these anomalously high rates of coastal erosion. In order to grapple with the serious erosion problems in southern Monterey Bay, I recommend that the City of Marina pursue options to stop beach sand mining activities at the Lapis facility.


Sand is to beaches and shorelines, as water is to western urbanization and agriculture. Sand moves between sources and temporary sinks. Preserving this sand and its movement is the key to maintaining the broad coastal economy, providing storm protection to infrastructure and shoreline development, ensuring recreational use of a state’s beaches, and protecting coastal ecosystems. This free movement of sand between sources and sinks is commonly referred to as the Sand Sharing System. Many legislative and rule‐making bodies have codified the importance of the Sand Sharing System.1

1For example, the State of Georgia Code § 12‐5‐231 (2015) reads:

    The General Assembly finds and declares that coastal sand dunes, beaches, sandbars, and shoals comprise a vital natural resource system, known as the sand‐sharing system, which acts as a buffer to protect real and personal property and natural resources from the damaging effects of floods, winds, tides, and erosion. . . The General Assembly further finds that this sand‐sharing system is a vital area of the state and is essential to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all the citizens of the state. . . It is declared to be a policy of this state and the intent of this part to protect this vital natural resource system by allowing only activities and alterations of the sand dunes and beaches which are considered to be in the best interest of the state and which do not substantially impair the values and functions of the sand‐sharing system and by authorizing the local units of government of the State of Georgia to regulate activities and alterations of the ocean sand dunes and beaches . . . .

This Sand Sharing System is based on the uncontroversial, science‐based concept that sand is constantly being exchanged from one coastal feature to another: from dunes to the beach, from one stretch of shoreline to the next, from the beach to the nearshore sand bars. Removal of sand from the system will impact all portions of the system eventually.

The Sand Sharing System can be described by the development of a sediment budget. Sediment (sand) budgets are important tools in understanding regional sand supply, loss, and movement. Best and Griggs, 1991; Rosati, 2005. A sand budget itemizes and quantifies the sources (inputs), sinks (outputs), and movement of the sand within a littoral cell. A littoral cell is a relatively self‐contained section of coast where the sand circulates, i.e “a defined length of shoreline along which the cycle of sediment erosion, transportation, and deposition is essentially self‐contained.” Philip Williams & Associates, 2008 at 21.

Littoral cells are separated from each other by features that block the exchange of sand, like a rocky headland. The south Monterey Bay shoreline has been divided into sub‐cells, which are essentially delineated by differing sand transport directions (shown in Figure 2). Patsch and Griggs, 2007. The Lapis Mine sits approximately in the middle of the Central sub‐cell, stretching from the Salinas River to Sand City in the south. The basic sources and sinks within this sub‐cell are listed in Table 1.

Numerous researchers have quantified the sediment movement within the southern Monterey Bay littoral cell. The sediment budgets in these studies vary depending on the area within Monterey Bay they are considering and the type of sediment being quantified (e.g. beach sand vs. all sediment). Patsch and Griggs, 2007; Jones and Griggs, 1985; Smith, 2005; Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008; Thornton, 2016. However, all of the studies conclude that sand mining removes a significant amount of sand from the sand budget and is contributing to shoreline erosion.

Figure 2. Southern Monterey Bay Littoral Sub‐Cells and Net Sediment Transport. Source: Figure 12 from Philip Williams & Associates et al. (2008).

The most recent sediment budget for the Central sub‐cell was presented by Thornton (2016) and is summarized in Table 1. It is significant that these data are presented in the peer‐reviewed scientific journal, Marine Geology. This offers a high level of confidence in the data quality.

This sand budget is useful because it is focused on the Central sub‐cell and considers only beach compatible sand. Thornton’s recent sediment budget indicates that the biggest source of sand in the southern Monterey Bay is from dune erosion. However, only about 25% of the dune sand is coarse enough to stay on the beach; the remaining 75% of the finer grained sand ends up being transported offshore (or blown back into the dunes). Thornton, 2016. Because CEMEX mines the coarse beach sand tracked in his budget, Thornton’s 2016 budget is the most appropriate sediment budget to use for the purposes of determining the sources and sinks of the sand that feed the beaches in the City of Marina.2

Dunes contribute an estimated sand volume of 155,000 cubic meters/year to the littoral system. Thornton 2016. There is also a small sediment input to the Central sub‐cell system from the Salinas River that has decreased through time.4 The sand input to the Central sub‐cell from riverine sources is relatively modest – about 34,000 cubic meters/year – because most sand from the Salinas River is transported north.5 Thornton, 2016; Patsch and Griggs, 2007.

    2 Only sand with a grain size greater than .25 mm typically stays on the beach. Thornton, 2016. This coarse beach size sand is the type of sand that CEMEX mines. Thornton, 2016. Therefore, other broader sediment budgets showing large amounts of sand being lost offshore are not relevant to the analysis of impacts from sand mining. See, e.g., Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008 at 46.
    3 Beach sand budgets were calculated for two time periods to examine the impact of sand mining: “The first budget is calculated from 1940 to 1989 during the time of intensive drag‐line sand mining of the surf zone focused on the south end of the littoral cell. The second budget is calculated from 1989 to 2011 after all the drag‐line mines were closed leaving only a dredge pond mining operation at the north end of the littoral cell.” Thornton, 2016.
    4 Two dams, built in 1941 and 1961, are estimated to have reduced the total annual sediment input from the Salinas river by 33%. Willis and Griggs, 2003. However, this does not have a major impact on the Central sub‐cell sand budget since most of the sand from the Salinas is “is driven northward by the dominant littoral drift” and is eventually carried into the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Patsch and Grigggs, 2007.
    5Other studies estimate an even lower volume of sediment – less than 8,000 cubic meters – traveling south from the Salinas river. Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008.

Sand within this cell moves from dunes to the beach as the shoreline recedes. It also moves back and forth along the shore by waves (this is known as longshore sediment transport or littoral drift). But, for the most part, the sand remains in the cell as a part of the Sand Sharing System, maintaining a balance that stabilizes the shoreline and the beaches. If there is a balance between sand entering and leaving the beach, then the shoreline position will remain stable. If there is a deficit of sand entering the beach, the shoreline will move landward, or erode. Sand mining that removes sand from this active system becomes a permanent sink— taking away sand that will never return. Thornton (2016) finds that sand mining is the only significant sink (or loss) of beach size sand in the sand budget for this sub‐cell.

Impacts of sand mining:

There is no scientific dispute that removing sand from the active Sand Sharing System will decrease the amount of sand available for building and maintaining beaches. The question for setting policy direction is whether such removal is significant enough to have a long‐term effect on shoreline position, beach volume, and beach/dune erosion. The first step in understanding the potential impact of the sand removal at the Lapis Mine is to determine if the sand is actually being removed from the active Sand Sharing System (from the littoral zone).

All of the available evidence shows that sand is being removed from the littoral zone. The dredging activity relies on a suction dredge operating in an artificial lagoon immediately adjacent to the beach. The lagoon is filled during coincident high tides and large waves, and the sand is removed by the dredge for processing. The sand filling the lagoon comes directly from the beach and nearshore immediately in front of the mine (Figure 3). The lagoon also traps sand that is moving in either direction along the beach. During a site visit by the author in 2017, recent storm waves had clearly reached well past the seaward portion of the lagoon (Figure 4). The visible wrack line was across the footprint of the lagoon. It is clear that the sand repeatedly filling the lagoon could not be coming from anywhere else other than the adjacent beaches and nearshore. Numerous peer‐reviewed papers examining the sediment budget of southern Monterey Bay support the conclusion that the sand being removed at the Lapis Mine is coming from the local Sand Sharing System; and thus, it is a permanent, annual sink (deficit) in the littoral cell sand budget. Patsch and Griggs, 2007; Jones and Griggs, 1985; Smith, 2005; Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008; Thornton, 2016.

Figure 3. Image of the sand mining operations at the CEMEX Lapis Mine. Note the fact that waves are pouring over the berm and into the lagoon. Effectively, the mining here is occurring in the active surf zone. Photo credit: Gary Griggs

Figure 4. In a March 2017 visit to the site, the author noted that the lagoon had been filled by storm waves and heavy equipment. The high tide wrack lines crossed the tracks of the equipment and the outer edge of the lagoon footprint.

The Lapis Sand Mine has not provided current extraction volumes to the City of Marina, nor publicly shared annual extraction information. Thornton (2016) estimated the sand removal to be approximately 205,000 cubic meters per year based on a CEMEX Annual Report from 2000. The Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan for Southern Monterey Bay (Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008) used an estimate of around 153,000 cubic meters per year. Both numbers represent a significant removal of sand from the littoral cell. It is important to keep in mind that these numbers represent average, annual removal. It is likely that the sand volume mined each year has fluctuated from slightly below to above this average rate range.

As Table 1 indicates, the total sand volume exchanged annually in the sub‐cell is estimated at approximately 326,000 cubic meters per year. Therefore, sand mining at the Lapis site is removing approximately 47% to 63% of the local sand budget.

To put these numbers in perspective, the Lapis mining operation is removing somewhere around 750,000 to just over 1 million cubic meters of sand every five years. This is the equivalent of a large beach nourishment project for many beaches in the United States. For example, a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach nourishment project along an eroding stretch of the Southern California coast would (1) initially place 260,000 cubic meters of replacement sand on the Encinitas beach, with 168,000 cubic meters of replacement sand added every five years and (2) initially place 535,000 cubic meters of sand along Solana Beach, with planned renourishment of 221,000 cubic meters every ten years.6 The projected cost for this project is $165 million, with annual costs of over $3.5 million.7 Given the costs of such projects, it is difficult, from a public policy perspective, to justify a similar beach nourishment effort along the similarly erosive southern Monterey Bay coast when the Lapis Sand Mine will quickly offset any replenishment benefits by sand removal for commercial profit.

Evidence of impact:

Removal of sand at these volumes, over the long term, from a relatively closed littoral cell necessarily causes a negative impact on the coastal systems within that cell. Because the longshore sediment transport rates in southern Monterey Bay are small (on the order of 10,000 to 20,000 cubic meters per year) relative to the amount of material being removed annually at the Lapis Sand Mine, the greatest sand deficit will be closest to the mine, within the municipality of Marina(Figure 5). Thornton, 2017; Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008.

    6 See U.S Army Corps of Engineers Project Description (numbers converted from cu yards to cu meters):‐Works/Projects‐Studies/Solana‐Encinitas‐Shoreline‐Study/.
    7Cost estimates are the most recent numbers in the media from December 2016:‐funding‐for‐50‐year‐sand‐project‐approved/

Figure 5. Typical section of rapidly eroding shoreline with the City of Marina.

A comprehensive evaluation of coastal erosion rates for the State of California conducted by the United States Geological Survey (Hapke et al., 2006) shows that the Central sub‐cell has the highest erosion rates in the state (Figure 6).8 Hapke et al. (2006) and other studies looking at long‐term average erosion rates show that erosion rates have increased dramatically over the last century in the southern Monterey Bay. This is illustrated by how much higher recent erosion rates are than long‐term erosion rates. For Marina State Beach, Hapke et al. (2006) calculated an average erosion rate from 1910‐2002 of 1.4 to 2.0 ft/yr and from 1970 to 2002 of 3.1 to 5.2 ft/year.9 Other studies support the increasing trend in erosion rates in southern Monterey Bay over the past century. Thornton, 2006; Jones and Griggs, 1985. The difference between the long‐term erosion rates (which include a period of time before sand mining and older mining methods before the suction dredge) and the short‐term erosion rates (including only the period of modern mining with current sand extraction amounts) in Hapke et al. 2006 is significant: it demonstrates that the impact of current sand mining practices on local shorelines has been an increase in the rate of erosion.

    8Hapke et al. (2006) calculated an average erosion rate from 1970 to 2002 of 4.0 ft/year for southern Monterey Bay between the Salinas River and Monterey. Thornton et al., 2006 estimated approximately 3.0ft/year of erosion from 1985 to 2005. Smith (2005) calculated erosion rates in southern Monterey Bay at 1m/yr (3.28 ft/yr).
    9These results are broadly consistent with the erosion rate results in Thornton et al. (2006). Thornton et al., (2006) estimated approximately 1.0 ft/year of erosion in Marina from 1940‐1985 and 4.7 ft/year of erosion in Marina from 1985 to 2005.

Figure 6. Dune Erosion Rates in Southern Monterey Bay. Source: Figure 18 from Philip Williams & Associates et al. (2008).

None of the documents reviewed for this report can offer any explanation for these anomalously high erosion rates beyond the sand extraction from the littoral zone at the Lapis Mine. The overwhelming evidence leads me to conclude that continued sand mining activities have led to a substantial sand deficit in southern Monterey Bay. This sand deficit is driving high rates of coastal erosion.

Coastal management implications and recommendations:

In the vast majority of coastal communities in the continental United States, rising sea level is the primary driver of long‐term coastal erosion. In those localities, managers have little choice but to accept the fact that halting global sea‐level rise is not a problem they can tackle alone. Coastal management, therefore, becomes an exercise in planned adaptation and perhaps some degree of shoreline stabilization— typically with beach nourishment as a key component.

In southern Monterey Bay, municipalities and coastal managers are confronted with a unique complicating factor for the development of any sediment management plan (e.g. Philip Williams & Associates et al., 2008) or erosion mitigation plan (e.g. ESA PWA, 2012). Coastal erosion is being exacerbated by (at best) or driven by (at worst) the direct and intentional removal of sand from the Sand Sharing System.

Given the costs and other significant disadvantages of long‐term beach nourishment programs, coastal managers can best serve the public interest by first attempting to eliminate sand sinks that are contributing to coastal erosion. In southern Monterey County, the Lapis Sand Mine is a substantial sand sink that is removing roughly 50 percent or more from the littoral system sand budget and, therefore, is a significant source of the coastal erosion that is negatively affecting coastal property, resources, and uses. Mitigating this ongoing erosion with hard structures (seawalls, revetments, and other coastal armoring) is not a sound policy response to the problem, as seawalls and groins will also directly interfere with the Sand Sharing System and create additional sand deficits.

Before municipalities and regional managers can meaningfully implement any serious, comprehensive, long‐term coastal planning, they will have to deal with the harmful sand deficit caused by the Lapis Sand Mine. Based on my review of the available information and literature and my professional expertise, I recommend that the City of Marina pursue options for halting the beach sand mining activities at the Lapis facility.

About the Author

Robert S. Young is the Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, a joint Duke University/Western Carolina University venture. He is also a Professor of Geology at Western Carolina University and a licensed professional geologist in three states (FL, NC, SC). The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) is a research and policy outreach center serving the global coastal community. The primary mission of PSDS is to conduct scientific research into coastal processes and to translate that science into management and policy recommendations through a variety of professional and public outreach mechanisms. The Program specializes in evaluating the design and implementation of coastal engineering projects. In California, Dr. Young is the Principal Investigator of a National Park Service project to map the vulnerability of every building, road, and facility in the state’s National Parks.


Front page featured image by © Gary Griggs



WHEREAS, the CEMEX Sand Mine facility, located between Lapis Road and the Monterey Bay in the City of Marina (hereinafter “Lapis Sand Mine”), extracts large volumes of sand from an artificial dredge pond located on the beach adjacent to the shoreline; and

WHEREAS, the CEMEX dredge operations are maintained by mechanical manipulation of the beach dredge pond, which changes shape and location over time to draw in coarse beach sand from the nearshore and public tidelands during high tide events; and

WHEREAS, the coastal dunes and beach on the CEMEX property contain federally threatened and endangered species and habitat that has been designated as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area under the Coastal Act; and

WHEREAS, the Lapis Sand Mine operates and maintains sand-moving equipment, moves wet/dry sand, and extracts sand within an environmentally sensitive beach habitat; and

WHEREAS, the Lapis Sand Mine stockpiles its extracted sand in the sensitive coastal dune habitat; and

WHEREAS, the Lapis Sand Mine operations degrade the environment by interfering with sensitive coastal resources and habitat; and

WHEREAS, the southern Monterey Bay coast suffers from extremely high rates of erosion; and

WHEREAS, the Lapis Sand Mine annually extracts an estimated 153,000 to 205,000 cubic meters of sand; and

WHEREAS, the City resolved on March 15, 2016 to authorize the City Manager “to request the California Coastal Commission to assist the City with and/or assume responsibility for, in coordination with the City, any enforcement proceedings that may be pursued relative to possible violations of the California Coastal Act and the Marina Local Coastal Program by the Cemex Sand Mining operations”; and

WHEREAS, on March 17, 2016, the California Coastal Commission issued a Notice of Intent to Commence Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Proceedings and Administrative Civil Penalties Proceedings against CEMEX for unpermitted development, including sand dredging and extraction and related activities and development; and

WHEREAS, on May 16, 2017, the State Lands Commission issued a letter to CEMEX concluding that the Lapis Sand Mine is engaged in unlawful conversion of state public trust resources and indicating that CEMEX must either immediately submit a lease application to the Commission or cease dredge pond operations because of the financial and resource impacts its operations have on the state; and

WHEREAS, the City commissioned Dr. Robert S. Young, Ph.D., Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and a Professor of Coastal Geology at Western Carolina University, to independently review the available information and academic literature on coastal erosion in the southern Monterey Bay and prepare an expert report to evaluate the effects, if any, of the Lapis Sand Mine on coastal erosion; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Young concluded that the Lapis Sand Mine constitutes a significant source of sand loss from the southern Monterey Bay littoral cell and, as a result, is causing erosion and significant adverse effects on coastal property, resources, and uses; and

WHEREAS, there is a scientific consensus that the Lapis Sand Mine extracts sand at a level that significantly contributes to high rates of erosion along the southern Monterey coast; and

WHEREAS, erosion due to the Lapis Sand Mine extraction activities causes significant physical and economic injury to public and private property along the southern Monterey coast; and

WHEREAS, the Lapis Sand Mine interferes with the public’s access to and use and enjoyment of the beaches along Marina’s coastline in a customary manner; and

WHEREAS, section 3479 of the California Civil Code states: “Anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a nuisance.”; and

WHEREAS, section 3480 of the California Civil Code states: “A public nuisance is one which affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal.”; and

WHEREAS, the current operations of the Lapis Sand Mine appear to this Council to meet the required elements for a public nuisance under sections 3479 and 3480 of the California Civil Code; and

WHEREAS, section 731 of the California Code of Civil Procedure authorizes the City Attorney, at the direction of the City Council, to bring a civil action in the name of the people of the State of California to abate a public nuisance; and

WHEREAS, section 17.41.260 of the Municipal Code requires “all operators of existing mining operations” to submit to the planning department (1) a brief statement specifying the approximate annual volume of sand being removed and (2) an accurate cronaflex ortho-topographic map by January 1st of every year “[i]n order to establish reference base data for the purpose of determining whether or not any particular mining activity constitutes new mining activity and to monitor shoreline erosion”; and

WHEREAS, City records indicate that the Lapis Sand Mine has not complied with these requirements since 1992, when the prior facility owner submitted extraction levels for year 1991; and

WHEREAS, section 17.25.030 of the Municipal Code requires a coastal development permit for conditional uses, such as dredge ponds, in the Coastal Conservation and Development District; and

WHEREAS, the CEMEX Sand Mine is located in the Coastal Conservation and Development District and CEMEX has not obtained a coastal development permit; and

WHEREAS, this resolution does not enjoin CEMEX from continuing sand mining activities unless and until the City Attorney seeks judicial enforcement of this nuisance declaration and a judicial order enjoining further sand mining; and

WHEREAS, section 17.60.040 of the Municipal Code empowers the City Council to direct the City Attorney to either commence civil action or abatement proceedings for violations of the City’s zoning title, including sections 17.41.260 and 17.25.030; and

WHEREAS, the action below is taken by this Council following careful consideration of a) all written materials submitted by staff, consultants, and members of the public, and b) comments made at the public hearing by staff, consultants, the public, and members of this Council.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Marina does hereby:

1. Approve this Resolution; and

2. Authorize the City Attorney to pursue the possibility of a civil action against CEMEX to declare and abate the Lapis Sand Mine as a public nuisance under sections 3479 and 3480 of the California Civil Code pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 731; and

3. Authorize the City Attorney to pursue the possibility of commencing action or proceedings for abatement under section 17.60.040 of the Municipal Code due to CEMEX’s continued violations of the reporting requirements under section 17.41.260 of the Municipal Code; and

4. Authorize the City Attorney to pursue the possibility of commencing action or proceedings for abatement under section 17.25.030 of the Municipal Code; and

5. Direct the City Attorney, at such time as he deems appropriate, to report back to the City Council, in closed session, with regard to which of the above-listed litigation actions he recommends and has decided to pursue on behalf of the City.

PASSED AND ADOPTED by the City Council of the City of Marina at a regular meeting duly held on the 6th of June, 2017, by the following vote:


Bruce Delgado, Mayor


Anita Sharp, Deputy City Clerk

The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it

Photo source: © SAF — Coastal Care


How should we understand the disquieting fact that a mass of scientific evidence about the Anthropocene, an unfolding event of colossal proportions, has been insufficient to induce a reasoned and fitting response?

Our best scientists tell us insistently that a calamity is unfolding, that the life-support systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival. Yet in the face of these facts we carry on as usual.

So today the greatest tragedy is the absence of a sense of the tragedy…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK (05-04-2017)

Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces, Guardian UK (02-12-2017)
For the first time, researchers have developed a mathematical equation to describe the impact of human activity on the earth, finding people are causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces…

Anthropocene Period Would Recognize Humanity’s Impact on Earth, Science Daily (07-11-2013)
The Anthropocene is the name of a proposed new geological time period that may soon enter the official Geologic Time Scale. The Anthropocene is defined by the human influence on Earth, where we have become a geological force shaping the global landscape and evolution of our planet…

The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age, Guardian UK (08-29-2016)
Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to epoch defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete were now under consideration…

Carbon Dioxide Is Warming the Planet: Here’s How; LiveScience (03-10-2017)

How Would Just 2 Degrees of Warming Change the Planet? LiveScience (04-29-2017)

New study links carbon pollution to extreme weather; Guardian UK (04-07-2017)
Human activities are altering the jet stream, which leads to extreme weather patterns getting stuck in place…

Next 10 years critical for achieving climate change goals; Science Daily (04-13-2017)
In order to have a good chance of meeting the limits set by the Paris Agreement, it will be necessary to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving carbon sinks, with net emissions peaking in the next 10 years, according to a new study…

Rapid, affordable energy transformation possible; NOAA (01-28-2016)

Believe you can stop climate change and you will, Science Daily (05-04-2017)
If we believe that we can personally help stop climate change with individual actions — such as turning the thermostat down — then we are more likely to make a difference, according to new research…

Climate Progress, With or Without Trump; The New York Times (03-31-2017)

Sea level rise poses serious threat to Charleston; By Orrin H. Pilkey

Photo source: ©© Jay Peterson


Rising seas are the first truly global environmental disaster related to climate change. Millions of people will be forced from their homes as the seas drown the atoll nations, devastate much of barrier-island and river-delta civilizations and, of course, invade the world’s coastal cities including Charleston.

The general consensus among scientists is that a threefeet rise in sea level should be anticipated by 2100. But recent projections suggest a possible rise of five or six feet…

Read Full Article, Post And Courier (04-29-2017)

Battling erosion an endless job for South Carolina beach towns, Post And Courier (04-23-2017)
In South Carolina, beach renourishment is a never-ending job…

The Ocean Is Boiling’: The Complete Oral History of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill

Oil platforms, Summerlamd, Santa Barbara County. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care.
Old wells, new problems: Once upon a time, Summerland, California, was the offshore oil drilling capital of the county. And while the wells were abandoned nearly a century ago, many Summerland residents feel that the unprecedented amounts of oil washing up on their beaches in recent months may be the result of these old petroleum-harvesting spots. Santa Barbara historical museum.


On January 28th, 1969, crude oil and gas erupted from a platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Alarm over the disaster reverberated around the world, energizing the nascent environmental movement and leading to a slew of legislative changes…

Read Full Article, By Kate Wheeling & Max Ufberg; Pacific Standard Magazine – 33 min read (04-18-2017)

End America’s Addiction to Fossil Fuels! NRDC (06-08-2015)
The recent oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara is a powerful reminder of the devastating costs of America’s addiction to oil on our communities, beaches and wildlife.

When You Drill, You Spill; Huffington Green (05-27-2015)
The Santa Barbara County spill, one of the largest in California history, reiterates what we already know: We can’t extract oil and transport it without putting our beaches, wildlife, and coastal communities at risk. The sad fact is, when you drill, you spill.

3,200 Gulf wells unplugged, unprotected lie abandoned beneath the Gulf of Mexico, CBS News (04-20-2011)
More than 3,200 oil and gas wells classified as active lie abandoned beneath the Gulf of Mexico, with no cement plugging to help prevent leaks that could threaten the same waters fouled by last year’s BP spill. These wells likely pose an even greater environmental threat than the 27,000 wells in the Gulf that have been plugged and classified officially as “permanently abandoned” or “temporarily abandoned…”

Secrecy Shrouds Decade-Old Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, ABC News (04-16-2015)

Federal records show steady stream of oil spills in gulf since 1964, Washington Post (07-24-2010)
The oil and gas industry’s offshore safety and environmental record in the Gulf of Mexico has become a key point of debate over future drilling, but that record has been far worse than is commonly portrayed by many industry leaders and lawmakers…

Earth Day, Mother Nature Network
On April 22, 1970, Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, founded Earth Day after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California…

Clean up teams used shovels and their hands to gather affected soil and ocean debris along oil impacted beaches north of Santa Barbara on May 21, 2015. Captions and Photo source: NOAA / US Coast Guards