Court Rules Against Excessive Sand Mining in Bay

Nov 18, 2015

State Agencies Cannot Allow Excessive Sand Mining If It Harms San Francisco Bay and Ocean Beach

Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Baykeeper Executive Director, 510-735-9700 x 107(office), 925-330-7757 (mobile),; George Torgun, Managing Attorney, Baykeeper, 510-735-9700 x 105,

(San Francisco, CA) State agencies and private companies no longer have a green light to extract excessive amounts of sand from the floor of San Francisco Bay—which harms access, enjoyment, and use of public resources—the California Court of Appeal ruled today.

“This ruling could help keep sand in San Francisco Bay to prevent erosion of Ocean Beach, and safeguard important species in the Bay,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Baykeeper Executive Director. “It will also help better protect resources nationwide.”

For decades, private companies have been permitted to mine too much sand from the Bay. The sand mining area includes sensitive rearing and migratory habitat for species that include Dungeness crab and Chinook salmon.  A substantial amount of scientific research shows that extracting sand from the Bay also exacerbates the already-serious erosion problem at Ocean Beach. 

Yet in 2012, the California agency that permits sand mining—the State Lands Commission—approved a large increase in Bay sand mining. Baykeeper sued to overturn this change in policy. In April 2014, a state trial court ruled in favor of increased sand mining. Baykeeper appealed, and today’s decision reverses the lower court ruling.

Sand mining in the Bay will likely continue under temporary permits. But under the ruling, the State Lands Commission is required to re-evaluate the amount of sand it will allow to be mined from the Bay floor. The commission will be required to consider its obligations under law to manage the Bay’s sand for the benefit of the public, not private companies.

An accurate reevaluation of the amount of sand that should be removed from the Bay floor will likely trigger much lower limits on Bay sand mining. According to the California Coastal Commission, an 85% reduction in the amount of sand removed is necessary to protect Ocean Beach and other coastal beaches.

“Sand on the floor of San Francisco Bay is a resource that belongs to the public. The state is charged with ensuring it’s used properly on our behalf,” said Baykeeper’s Managing Attorney, George Torgun. “We applaud the court’s decision to stop allowing private companies to extract sand in an unsustainable way and hope the agency will consider more reasonable limits on sand mining that protect the Bay and Ocean Beach.”

San Francisco Baykeeper uses on-the-water patrols, science, advocacy and the courts to stop San Francisco Bay pollution. For more information, visit us at  ####

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