Thursday, July 6, 2006
The Monterey Bay coast is slowly being chipped away by the mighty Pacific Ocean’s rising waves. Most scientists acknowledge that this process of coastal erosion has been occurring for thousands of years, since the end of the last ice age about 18,000 years ago. Some scientists, however, like Lesley Ewing of the California Coastal Commission, also suspect human activity may be quickening the shoreline’s disappearance.
“The wildcard is the beach-level sand mining operation in Marina,” says Ewing, referring to a CEMEX sand plant that exacts about 100,000 cubic yards of sand from a beach-adjacent pond every year. “We need to ask ourselves now how much sand are we going to continue extracting from the shoreline.”
On July 14, Ewing will reunite with a team of about 20 scientists who’ve dubbed themselves the Southern Monterey Bay Coastal Erosion Workgroup. The group—the first of its kind in Monterey County—has been meeting for 18 months to examine coastal erosion on the Central Coast. The upcoming meeting is free and open to the public and will feature presentations examining locations particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion, as well as steps that local agencies can take to avoid problems with the rising sea level in the future.
“We need to ask ourselves now how much sand are we going to continue extracting from the shoreline.”
One topic that is sure to be brought up at the meeting is a CEMEX-owned sand mining operation in Marina. In May, Ed Thornton, an oceanography professor at Naval Postgraduate School, measured erosion rates along the southern end of the Monterey Bay coastline for the last 60 years. Thanks to his research, scientists now know that from Sand City up to Marina, for example, about 8 feet of beachhead is being submerged under the ocean every year—and even more real estate is lost during heavy winter storms.
Thornton theorizes that the sand mining operation in Marina is a large reason why coastal erosion is so much worse along those sections of the coast nearest the sand mining plant.
Another presenter at the meeting will be Douglas P. Smith, a geology professor at CSU-Monterey Bay. Smith stresses that coastal erosion is an ancient process, and the challenge now is to find ways to mitigate as much as possible a potentially devastating problem for coastal communities that depend on accessible shorelines.
“What we’re really searching for is a long-term solution,” Smith says. “Because it’s pretty clear that what we’ve done so far, like erecting sea walls in front of threatened buildings, are merely emergency responses.” A case in point is the seawall installed to protect the Best Western Monterey Beach Hotel from high-tide waves. “That sea wall has now been failing,” Smith says, “so they’ve had to add rock to it.” Sea walls are a problem because they eventually eliminate pedestrian access along the shoreline after the sea level has risen sufficiently.
Also scheduled to give presentations at the public meeting are Thornton, Brad Damitz and Holly Price of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Charles Lester of the California Coastal Commission.
Ewing, who is based in San Francisco, says one of the group’s ultimate goals is to work with the public and local governments to create a long-term plan for the shoreline that addresses coastal erosion.
“There are a lot of options to look at,” Ewing says, “like deciding shoreline areas where we shouldn’t plan new developments in the future, or to consider the relocation of certain structures to put them out of harm’s way.”
CEMEX officials have been invited to attend, as well as the major property owners along the southern Monterey Bay and other stakeholders.
THE FREE MEETING WILL BE HELD FROM 9:30AM-12:30PM, FRIDAY, JULY 14 AT THE COLTON ROOM OF THE MONTEREY CONFERENCE CENTER, 1 PORTOLA PLAZA, MONTEREY. 647-4201.
The minimum number of bison in North America before unregulated killing began in the 1800s. Today about 350,000 remain on the continent. Source: National Bison Association