Monday, April 18, 2011

Marti Collins fights for Surfrider Foundation's Mission in Florida

This past weekend was Surfrider Foundation's Florida Chapters Meeting. Environmental attorney Martha Collins from Collins Law Group was able to participate in the conference to give an overview on the new Florida Administration and What Surfrider Can Do to affect policy change. She spoke on issues that are going to continuously affect Florida, like sea level rise, beach fill (or "renourishment") proposals and t-groin/breakwater proposals. Marti is currently working on behalf of Surfrider to work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection rulemaking process regarding permitting coastal projects. Our comment letter and discussions propose increasing setback requirements for new development and updating mitigation assessment techniques, including UMAM.

Marti Collins was instrumental in garnering the REACH 8 victory for Surfrider Foundation in 2009. Marti represented Surfrider Foundation's Palm Beach County Chapter to set precedent in the arena of beach management processes. After a trial spanning several weeks, Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale denied the town of Palm Beach a Joint Coastal Permit for the REACH 8 beach fill project, which would have buried hard-bottom habitat amongst other things. The project was denied based on Surfrider's exposure of the project's potential harm to environmental and recreational resources through the course of the trial.

Watch Marti speak about her work here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Surfrider Foundation Files Suit to Restore Sharp Park

Surfrider Foundation filed suit today to promote coastal preservation at Sharp Park. Along with our partners at Wild Equity Institute, Sequoia Audobon Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and National Parks Conservation Association, Surfrider is dedicated to preserving the coastal ecosystem at the park located within the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter has challenged this project due to a misplaced sea wall, and proposed $11 million "upgrade" to the financially-troubled golf course, whereas these proposed "improvements" would actually jeopardize the recovery efforts endangered and threatened species in this area. The Chapter is fighting to restore the natural flood-protection features that were destroyed by the golf course and to have the land operated in partnership with the National Park Service, which already owns and manages the adjacent property.

The lawsuit is specifically aimed at protecting coastal resources by protecting the threatened California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. The Endangered Species Act suit pits conservation groups against the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department for illegal "take" (in this instance, killing) of federally protected species. The crux of the issue for Surfrider is habitat restoration which will lead to better beach management practices and a healthier coast.

According to the Chapter's Vice Chairman, Michael Stewart,

"We feel strongly that an interconnected and protective coastal ecosystem (beach, dune and barrier lagoon) must be recognized as a dynamic, integrated unit; you can't save just one part and expect it to work correctly. This would provide the most benefit to local endangered species, an expansion of desired recreational opportunities, and the best (and least expensive) flood protection for the community at Sharp Park - two, four or even zero legged."

According to a peer-reviewed scientific study by coastal restoration experts, restoration of the natural lagoon and wetlands at Sharp Park will provide the most public benefit, since it (a) is the cheapest public option, particularly compared to the San Francisco Park Department plan or the status quo, (b) will provide the best flood protection for neighbors against sea-level rise and coastal storm events, and (c) is essential for the long-term sustainability of endangered species found on the site.

The full Conservation Group Press Release is linked here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Trash Talkin' at the West Coast Governors' Agreement meeting

Surfrider Foundation is a member of the West Coast Governors' Agreement ("WCGA") on Ocean Health's Action Coordination Team for Marine Debris. This week, the Team met in San Francisco to discuss solutions for Land-Based Debris. Land-based marine debris is often called ocean litter, plastic pollution or marine plastic pollution and comprises up to 80% of all the trash in our oceans. Naturally, this is an incredibly important topic for Surfrider Foundation, our Rise Above Plastics program, and goes to our mission of protecting our oceans, waves and beaches.

The Land-based Marine Debris Workshop was attended by officials from NOAA, EPA, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Coastal Commission, non-profits such as Heal the Bay, SOLV and Surfrider Foundation, and experts on marine debris, including Algalita Marine Research Foundation and Seventh Generations Advisors. The three day discussion focused on obtaining strategy solutions for Reduction & Prevention methods, Database Gathering & Management, Public Education & Outreach, and Coordination. Surfrider Foundation specifically presented on the reduction efforts that are currently going on in the three states, including single-use plastic bag bans, expanded polystyrene foodware bans, and extended producer responsibility efforts and made recommendations for the Governors to adopt bold strategies to support these efforts.

Generally, Action Coordination Team members focused on and recognized the importance of collection of standardized and meaningful data from beach clean-ups, setting target reduction goals for common types of litter, implementing strong and effective stormwater controls and watershed protection, and also tracking, training and supporting volunteer clean-up efforts. There was much discussion and information-sharing surrounding tactics on how to accomplish litter abatement goals: what works, what doesn't work and why? Surfrider encouraged the group to take a proactive approach to the problem and suggested actionable solutions that can be implemented on a timeline.

The core group leaders are scheduled to come up with proposed recommendation in the next several weeks, which will be suggested to the Governors. Also, the next step for the WCGA group is to form a Marine Debris Alliance to help implement the strategies that have come out of these discussions. In the interim, many of the groups working to address marine debris will be present at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in March, where there is expected to be a Honolulu Agreement for how to effectively address ocean litter. Surfrider continues to work on these important issues and to push for more solutions to plastic pollution.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wall It or Work With It?: Responses to Sea Level Rise in California

The Problem

Approximately 10.2% of California's Pacific Coast is armored by sea walls or hard structures to fight against sea level rise. In some areas, like Carlsbad, it is estimated that over 50% of the shoreline is armored.

Right now, the California Coastal Commission is being faced with controversies over emergency sea wall permits to protect existing structures in Pismo Beach, Broad Beach in Malibu and Carlsbad in Northern San Diego County, to name a few. These "emergency permits" are intended to last merely 18 months but can go unaddressed for over a decade, leaving a major structure affecting the California coastline to persist with out California Enviornmental Quality Act ("CEQA") or Coastal Act review.

The Wrong Solution: Sea Walls

Sea walls are expensive, can intensify wave activity and block the beaches from getting new sand. Eventually, they cause the beach to disappear - this is the worst solution from the perspective of Surfrider Foundation.

California state law technically requires homeowners to eventually obtain a Coastal Development Permit from either their local government, if the local government has a certified Local Coastal Program ("LCP"). All California LCPs require technical or geologic reports to support the proposed coastal armoring project. If no approved LCP exists, the Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over the permitting, which must conform with Public Resources Code sections 30235, 30253, 30610, and 30611.

The Right Solution: Going with the Flow in Managed Retreat

At Surfer's Point in Ventura, there is a novel project being put into play that could serve as a model for threatened coastal areas up and down the coast. The $4.5-million project in Ventura is the result of years of stakeholder input and coordination amongst state officials to accomplish the proactive and reasoned approach to sea level rise.

Rising ocean levels and increased erosion are compelling officials in Ventura to move facilities inland, in an effort that we hope will serve as an example for many of California's coastal communities. At this noted surf spot in Ventura, construction crews are replacing a 120-space parking lot and a weathered bike path with sand and cobblestones. By pushing the parking lot 65 feet inland, the project is expected to give the wave-ravaged point at least 50 more years of life, according to experts.

As Paul Jenkins of the Ventura County Surfrider Foundation Chapter put it, "There's the old-school mentality that when nature threatens you, you fight back...this idea of retreating and moving back was really quite a radical proposition." Other localities and state officials, including in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Goleta beach in Santa Barbara, are wisely looking to Ventura as a model for future shoreline management.

Of course, managed retreat is somewhat easier for state officials to accomplish if the land in question is a public park. If the threatened coastal area includes a private residence or other private structure, there could be Fifth Amendment Takings issues implicated if state suggests the removal of private property.

Then again, if nothing is done, the property may fall into the Pacific, as has been seen before.