Excessive Bay Sand Mining Threatens Bay And Ocean Beach

Jul 9, 2014

Baykeeper Files Court Appeal to Prevent Ocean Beach Erosion and Damage to Bay

Yesterday, San Francisco Baykeeper filed a court appeal to stop private companies from mining too much sand from San Francisco Bay. The appeal seeks to overturn an April state court ruling that gave sand mining companies a green light to increase the amount of sand they suck up from the San Francisco Bay floor, regardless of whether it harms the Bay or causes Ocean Beach to wash away.

“The sand on the floor of San Francisco Bay is a resource that belongs to all Californian's, and the state is charged with ensuring it’s used properly on our behalf. Allowing private companies to extract sand in an unsustainable way is not an appropriate use of this public resource,” said Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren. “Plus, excessive sand mining damages two of our region’s natural treasures, the Bay and Ocean Beach.”

San Francisco Baykeeper filed suit in 2012 to challenge a decision by the State Lands Commission that approved the large increase in Bay sand mining. The increase was approved despite scientific research showing that extracting more sand from the Bay would exacerbate the already-serious erosion problem at Ocean Beach.

Beaches outside the Golden Gate like Ocean Beach are naturally replenished by sand that washes out of the Bay over time. Ocean Beach is eroding in part because sand mining depletes the amount of sand that washes out the Golden Gate from upstream sources in the Delta and Sierra Nevadas. Further erosion from increased sand mining could threaten the Great Highway, cause a major city sewer line to rupture, and wash away sensitive habitat for shorebirds.

Excessive sand mining not only contributes to erosion of coastal beach habitat, but also disrupts the Bay’s ecosystem by impacting bottom-dwelling invertebrates and shellfish. A primary mining area is between the San Francisco waterfront and Angel Island, which is used by juvenile Dungeness crab, sturgeon, and other important Bay species. Another is Suisun Bay, a critical habitat for sturgeon, ducks, and many other species of fish and water birds.

In addition to Baykeeper’s court appeal of the decision, the public has another opportunity to prevent the environmental damage and loss of a public resource caused by excessive sand mining in the Bay.

Sand mining companies need not only a lease from the State Lands Commission, but also a permit from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), which will consider the issue at its meeting on July 17, 1pm, at the Ferry Building, second floor. Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren will present comments to the BCDC, and will be available for questions from the media.  “Baykeeper is encouraging the BCDC to base its decision on the large amount of scientific evidence showing the harm from excessive sand mining in the Bay, and set limits that protect both Ocean Beach and the Bay,” Wren said.

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