MARINA, Calif. - Thursday marks the beginning of the end for the last coastal sand mine in the U.S.
The California Coastal Commission gave its approval for the Cemex Lapis plant in Marina, California, to phase out by the end of 2020.
“We are going to pop champagne. We are going to celebrate tonight," said Katherine O'dea, executive director of nonprofit Save Our Shores.
Central Coast nonprofits, residents, and coastal scientists have been waiting for this day for years.
Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado said he didn't think he'd see the century-old mine disappear so soon.
“No, I thought that this would be a battle that could be protracted over a decade of litigation,” Delgado said.
But a battle no more – the Coastal Commission’s decision came after the controversial sand mining plant agreed to shut down last month, avoiding what could be a lengthy legal battle.
“While Cemex respectfully disagrees with certain aspects of facts and law, in this matter, we set aside this disagreement in the interest of seeking a resolution in this matter,' said Jerae Carlson, Cemex’s vice president for sustainability and public affairs.
The plan allows Cemex to mine up to 720,000 tons of sand for the next three years. The company will be monitored quarterly. Then it has another three years to restore the land before it can sell it to a nonprofit or government agency.
This will also give its 20 plus employees time to look for new jobs.
Scientists have different views on what might happen to the nearly 500-acre sandy beach.
“The shoreline, the dunes will probably continue to erode but at a much lower rate,” said Gary Greggs, coastal scientist at University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Because there's a supply of sand from the Salinas River that will allow the beaches to recover, it may be grow a little bit,' said coastal engineer Ed Thorton.
But both said it's a good day for environmental conservation.
This agreement is effective immediately but the plan still need the state lands commission's approval in August.
A representative from the commission already has already expressed support at the meeting.