(KPIX 5) — After years of protests, investigation and negotiation, the California Coastal Commission voted to accept a deal that will set in motion the eventual closure of the 110-year-old Lapis Sand Mine in the Monterey County town of Marina.
During its meeting on July 16, committee members voted unanimously to accept the deal with Cemex.
Before the vote, staff members presented their findings to the commission, after nearly two years of research and documentation. The staffers concluded a dredge pond that is on Cemex’s private property, has been replenished by waves that deposit sand into the pond. Cemex then harvests, processes and sells the sand, marketed as Lapis Lustre.
For years, Cemex denied the violations as public opposition steadily mounted.
But in May, the issue took on new urgency when the State Lands Commission determined Cemex was stealing public sand.
In June, Cemex finally signed a cease-and-desist agreement to immediately reduce its take by about 25 percent, and stop mining altogether on December 31, 2020.
Cemex must sell the land to a non-profit or government agency for at least a 20 percent discount, where it could possibly be converted to a recreational area with public access.
The State Lands Commission said the deal avoided a decade long court battle. “If this issue ended up in court, which I have no doubt it will without this consent agreement, the litigation would be incredibly complex, protracted, and without any certainty as to the outcome,” said State Lands Commission Executive Officer Jennifer Lucchesi.
Cemex was given a full hour for rebuttal but spoke for only three minutes. “While we respectfully disagree with some of the aspects of fact of law in this matter, we set aside disagreements today in the interest of seeking a resolution to this matter,” said an unnamed Cemex representative.
The unanimous vote with met sustained applause, cheers and hugs among activists, who shook hands with the coastal commissioners.
“I think it’s very historic. I think it’s a long time coming,” said California Coastal Commissioner Effie Turnbull Sanders. “I think that it marks an era of understanding, protection and valuing of our natural resources.”
“All we can do is say thank you, this is awesome,” said Save Our Shores Executive Director Katherine O’Dea.” Everyone should celebrate, the coast should celebrate. It’s the coast that wins. It’s mother nature who wins today.”
On August 17, the State Lands Commission will meet to approve this deal. If it passes, as observers say it likely will, the sand mine will begin ramping down operations.