Sand Mining in California's Central Coast Region

From CCoWS Wiki
Revision as of 12:41, 29 March 2018 by CorySteinmetz (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search

An environmental summary created by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.

This page gives a short history of sand mining in California's Central Coast Region and highlights the CEMEX Lapis Plant. The page does not discuss gravel mining that occurs inland.

This page was created as part of the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


Southern Monterey Bay in the Central coast of California was the most intensively mined shoreline in the United States from 1906-1990. [1] The majority of sand mines were closed in 1990 due to assumptions that mining increased coastal erosion. The CEMEX Lapis Plant, located in the town of Marina, Monterey County, is the only sand mine in all of California that continues to operate.[1] CEMEX mines approximately 3 million tons of sand annually. The Plant is currently under scrutinity for possibly violating a permit. The sand mining market in the United States is slightly over a billion dollars per year. [2]


The only sand mining plant currently operating in California's Central Coast region, and the United States, is located in the City of Marina, Monterey County, California. The CEMEX Lapis Plant is located eight miles north of Monterey, California along Highway 1 and within the Lower Salinas River Watershed. [3]

Resources At Stake

Excavation of approximately 3 million tons of sand each year can impact the following resources along the Monterey Bay shoreline:

  • Sand
    • A valuable resource that is used to make glass, computer chips, in cement to build houses and roads, and more. [4]
    • Provides protection from extreme conditions (i.e. flood, large storms, sea level rise)
  • Water supply
    • Sand mining can extend so deeply that it affects ground water, springs, underground wells through lowering of the water table. [5]
  • Species Biodiversity
  • Sub-tidal Habitat (Rocky Reef, Kelp forests, eelgrass beds)
  • Coastal/Sandy Beach habitat
  • Dune Habitat
  • Infrastructure
    • Existing Coastal Development (hotels, condos, etc.)
    • Highways & Bridges
  • Special Status Species Habitat - western snowy plover, Smith's blue butterfly & black lesless lizard
    • In December 2014, CalAm began work on a test slant intake well located at the CEMEX sand mining facility in North Marina[6]. Due to the presence of threatened Western Snowy Plover breeding grounds near the test slant well, the location had to be returned to its original conditions by February 28, 2015[7].


Various private and public organizations have interests in sand mining. Some of these are:

Local Government


  • CEMEX - Mexico-based, global building materials company which owns the CEMEX Lapis Plant in Marina, CA. [8]



Laws, policies, & regulations

CEMEX does not currently have a Coastal Development Permit.[9] The plant is able to operate solely through the Local Coastal Program in the City of Marina.[9] Since the CEMEX Lapis Plant has been in operation since before the Calfornia Coastal Act, the plant has been "grandfathered-in".[9] Nonprofits such as The Surfrider Foundation and Save Our Shores have called for the Coastal Commission to review the permit.[9]

US Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) jurisdiction includes all actions below the mean high tide line (MHW). CEMEX operates just a few feet above MHW, and therefore the USACE does not have the power to shut down the mine.

Systems and Processes

CEMEX currently mines 200,000 cubic yards of sand. Excavation of sand in the lower watershed increases the grade and creates a new base level for which the entire watershed must equilibrate. The general argument is that mining diminishes sand deposits on beaches and accelerates erosion. Sand mining in coastal dune systems can lead to long term erosion of approximately 0.5 to 1.5 meters per year.[10] Sand is a valuable part of the coastal land and dune ecosystem and is not a renewable resource.[11] The Monterey Bay tidal system moves sand along the shore, therefore sand removed from one location will impact the entire shoreline.[12]

The southern Monterey shoreline on average is the most erosive shoreline in California [13].

Erosion Rates in Southern Monterey Bay[14]:

Monterey: 1 ft / year

Seaside: 3 ft/year

Marina: 6 ft/ year

Current Research

Coastal Retreat in California's Central Coast Region, specifically Southern Monterey Bay, has the fastest rate of erosion in California.[13] Since the retreat is occuring in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, scientists are determined to find possible mitigation efforts, reasons for high rates, and, specific hot spots.

Recent research includes:

  • Thorton et al. (2006) looked at sand mining impacts on long-term dune erosion in southern Monterey Bay [1]
  • Storlazzi and Field (2000) studied sediment distribution and transport along the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Bay [15]
  • Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan For Southern Monterey Bay prepared by Williams et al. (2008). [16]
  • Hapke et al. (2006) wrote the National Assessment of Shoreline Change Part 3: Historical Shoreline Change and Associated Coastal Land Loss Along Sandy Shorelines of the California Coast [13]


There are a variety of tools that can be used to assess the effects of sand mining and/or coastal retreat.

  • ArcGIS and the Digital Shoreline Analysis System (DSAS) toolbox can be used to monitor changes in beach width.
  • Stero Photogrammetry [1]
  • LIDAR Measurements [1]
  • GPS Surveys [1]

Future research

Data Gaps: See Chapter 11, Section 11.1 and 11.2, Page 152

CEMEX In The News

Santa Cruz Sentinel Mar 16, 2016

Monterey County Weekly Jan 14, 2016 Sept 1, 2014 2014

Monterey Herald Aug 26, 2013

Monterey Herald Aug 26, 2013

Sierra Club Jan 2012


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Thornton et al. 2006. Sand Mining Impacts on Long-term Dune Erosion in Southern Monterey Bay. Marine Geology 229.1:45-58.
  2. Wikipedia page on sand mining
  3. CEMEX Lapis Plant
  4. Sand Wars Movie Website
  5. Environmental Impacts
  6. In brief: Test slant well intake for Monterey Peninsula project now underway
  7. MPWSP Temporary Slant Test Well, Project Description
  8. CEMEX Website About Us Page
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Website Page Save Our Shores
  10. [1]
  11. [2]
  12. Sierra Club - Beach Erosion caused by CEMEX sand mining in Marina
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Hapke CJ et al. 2006. USGS. National Assessment of Shoreline Change Part 3: Historical Shoreline Change and Associated Coastal Land Loss Along Sandy Shorelines of the California Coast
  14. California Coastal Erosion Response to Sea Level Rise
  15. Storlazzi, CD and Field, ME. 2000. Sediment distribution and transport along a rocky, embayed coast: Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Bay, California. Marine Geology 170.3: 289-316.]
  16. Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan For Southern Monterey Bay



This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.