Excessive Sand Mining in Bay Approved Despite Risk to Ocean Beach

Nov 1, 2012

Removing Unsustainable Amounts of Sand from San Francisco Bay Causes Beach to Erode

Ian Wren, Staff Scientist, San Francisco Baykeeper, 415-856-0444 Ext. 108, ian@baykeeper.org

(San Francisco, CA)—A large increase in sand mining in San Francisco Bay was approved in mid-October by the State Lands Commission. The approval came despite findings by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey that increased sand mining will exacerbate the already-serious problem of erosion at Ocean Beach.

Sand miners dredge the floor of the central Bay to collect sand to be used locally to make concrete. Sand from the Bay is normally washed out the Golden Gate and some is deposited on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. The beach is already eroding, in part due to the effects of past sand mining; further erosion could threaten the Great Highway and a major city sewer line.

“San Francisco should not have to spend up to $343 million to fight erosion of Ocean Beach when sustainable alternatives allow us to meet regional demand for sand and concrete,” said Ian Wren, Baykeeper Staff Scientist.

The supply of sand on the Bay floor should be replenished each year as sand is washed down from rivers and the Delta. San Francisco Baykeeper urged the State Lands Commission to set sand mining limits that keep the resource from being depleted, but the Commission refused to consider this option. Up to 2 million cubic meters of sand is extracted every year.

The State Lands Commission’s action permits a 43% increase over the amount of sand removed from the Bay between 2002 and 2007, years when the amounts removed were already unusually high.

“The State Lands Commission relied on poor science and inadequate environmental review when they made this decision,” said Wren. “Erosion at Ocean Beach has been an issue of concern for years, yet regulators have failed to connect the dots back to sand mining in the Bay.”

The proposed increase in sand mining still needs approval from several additional regulatory agencies, including the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). “We hope BCDC will insist on sustainable rates of sand mining that won’t deplete this resource or cause erosion of Ocean Beach,” said Wren.

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