The California Coast is Under Attack and Only Surfers Can Save It

The Coastal Commission hearing held at Morro Bay last February where Executive Director and coastal advocated Charles Lester was fired in secret by big business.

The Inertia

The worst is finally happening. The California Coastal Commission, ran by a surfer’s best friend for 40 years, has been taken over by big business that is rapidly turning against the surf community. And if you think giving $5 to the Surfrider Foundation will be enough to stop this one, you need to pull your head out of the sand. Unless surfers like you and I get educated and take real action, that sand is about to be get a lot more polluted. Nuclear waste dumps – along with oil, chemical, and salt pollution – are all currently planned for your coast unless we do something about it.

You may not have known that a surfer’s best friend led a California state agency, but he did. He was Coastal Commission Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester, and he was jus fired in secret last February. Dozens of surfers joined me at the CCC hearing in Morro Bay, where Dr. Lester’s supporters were unable to save him. Coastal Commissioners even ignored our demands for transparency and went into a private room for secret talks. It’s no coincidence that the Coastal Commissioners who then voted to fire Dr. Lester had the worst voting records on coastal protection. In decades. You can see where this is going… And now that a surfer’s best friend is no longer leading the Coastal Commission, nuclear waste dumps, chemical pollution, and oil pollution are coming to a beach near you.

1. Chemical and Salt Pollution from New Desalination Plants

First of all, a desalination plant is proposed for Huntington Beach. This plant will suck up ocean water, take the salt out using toxic chemicals, and then discharge the leftover salt and toxic chemicals right back out to the ocean. This will create a toxic plume along Surf City that will be double the normal ocean salinity and enough to kill millions of sea creatures. This is all proposed even though desalination can be done in a way that doesn’t pollute. (Keep in mind, Orange County is a leader in sustainable water recycling and doesn’t even need desalination.)

San Diego already has a desalination plant owned by the same company that is looking to start sucking up ocean water. And if both of these projects begin operation, another plant could be coming to a beach near you.

More on Orange County and San Diego’s desalination proposal and what you can do about it.

2. Oil Pollution from Proposed Development at Banning Ranch

In Newport Beach, the only large, privately owned coastal open space left in Orange County is slated to be paved over by 900 homes, a hotel, and strip malls. Even worse for surfers, though, is that the oil rigs here have contaminated much of the soil, and the developer doesn’t want to spend the money to clean it properly. The developers’ plan to clean the area includes digging up a football field full of oil-contaminated soil and stockpiling it in wetlands for years, where the oily dirt will then run off into your favorite surfing spot after big storms. Orange County Coastkeeper called out this oily scheme and it was ignored.

Read more here.

3. Nuclear Waste Dumps on the Coast

Although the nuclear power plant at San Onofre is finally shutting down, there are still very few places to store nuclear waste. Naturally, SoCal Edison wants to create a toxic waste dump on the coast at their San Onofre site for the next 300 years. Fukushima, anyone?

The Coastal Commissioners already approved this plan, and local groups are suing to try and stop it. Up the coast at the aptly-named Diablo nuclear power plant, operations are finally shutting down. The Diablo folks are definitely watching what happens at San Onofre with regards to nuclear waste, as that issue has not been solved there either.

More on the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear crises.

Think this is bad? Our generation of surfers has been lucky. We grew up with a surfer’s best friend running the Coastal Commission and protecting us for the last 40 years. Before the Coastal Commission was created, nuclear power plants were proposed for Malibu and anywhere else that could fit one, offshore oil rigs were planned for Big Sur, and private beaches were becoming the norm. Killer Dana was destroyed by a breakwater, and surfers had no chance of stopping any of the endless bad projects proposed for our coast.

So there you have it, folks. It’s time to get your head out of the sand. Go to the Coastal Commission hearing this September 7th, 8th, and 9th in Newport Beach, which, on two different days, will decide whether to approve the desalination plant in Huntington Beach and whether to approve the Banning Ranch project in Newport. Get involved with the groups fighting the nuclear waste dumps. There will undoubtedly be more to come here at The Inertia.

Coastal Commission monthly hearing schedule.