The last remaining sand mine in the United States, an operation that has been removing the equivalent of a large dump-truck load every half hour, will close in 2020, ending what experts say is causing devastating erosion in California's Monterey Bay.
The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved an agreement Thursday to shut down the Lapis Sand Plant located on a remote beach in Monterey County. Such operations were banned from the California coast 27 years ago, but operator Cemex has continued because of a loophole in state law.
"This settlement is an incredible victory for the public," said Commission Executive Director Jack Ainsworth. "Monterey County has some of the most iconic stretches of coastline that are being lost to some of the highest erosion rates in the state."
Operator Cemex denies that the plant was the cause of erosion.
Following an investigation of the century-old mining site, the Commission last year sent a letter outlining the gravity of the situation and the steps it would take to enforce Coastal Act compliance, including possible financial penalties.
Talks with representatives of the property began and pressure to end operations grew when the State Lands Commission sent a letter to operator Cemex in May. The Lands Commission said the extraction did not have a required lease and that continuing without providing compensation to the state constituted illegal expropriation of public property.
Last month, the Marina City Council deemed the dredge pond extraction operation public nuisance. A proposed agreement was signed by Cemex on June 23.
The settlement establishes a maximum amount of sand that may be removed during the next three years and provides another three years to restore the site and allow for employee transitions.
Eventually the land will be sold to a nonprofit organization or governmental entity that would provide public access.