The Commission is the owner and manager of millions of acres of sovereign lands and resources that are held in trust subject to the common law Public Trust Doctrine. If unaddressed, sea-level rise can have catastrophic consequences for these sovereign lands and resources. The Commission is working hard to facilitate sea-level rise preparedness, with an emphasis on protecting California’s public trust lands and the public’s right to access and enjoy these lands. The Commission partners with the Legislature and other federal, state, and local agencies to stay at the forefront of efforts to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise on the lands and natural resources entrusted to its care.
The Commission works with the California Department of Conservation’s Office of Mine Reclamation, to expeditiously inventory and remediate abandoned mine hazards on state School Lands in the California desert.
The Commission's Abandoned Vessel Program began in 2012 following the enactment of SB 595 (Wolk, Chapter 595, Statutes of 2011). The law allows the Commission to immediately remove a vessel from areas under its jurisdiction without prior notice if the vessel presents a hindrance to navigation, a threat to vessel operators, a hazard to the natural environment, or creates a public nuisance.
The Bolsa Chica Lowlands Restoration Project is a cooperative project of the Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Coastal Conservancy, Resources Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the largest restoration project in Southern California history.
The Commission removes coastal hazards along the California coast, with a particular focus on hazards in Santa Barbara County. Examples of hazards are remnants of coastal structures, piers, oil wells and pilings, and deteriorated electric cables and old pipes. Coastal hazards impede coastal recreation, fishing, and public access. Many coastal hazards are located on public trust lands designated for commerce, navigation, fishing, and recreation. The Commission is committed to protecting California’s coastline and ocean resources through implementation of its coastal hazard removal program.
The occupation of lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction requires a lease issued by the Commission. Occupation of land under the Commission’s jurisdiction without a lease is a trespass. The Commission addresses such trespasses by working with the owners of the private structures on public lands to ensure they have the proper authorization for occupy state property, and are appropriately compensating the state for the use of its property.
The California Legislature has legislatively granted hundreds of thousands of acres of public trust lands, often referred to as granted lands, in trust to cities, counties and other governmental entities, including California's five largest ports (San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and San Francisco). These grants encourage development of tidelands consistent with the public trust and require trustees to re-invest revenues produced into the lands where they are generated. The Commission has the statutory responsibility to oversee the management of sovereign public trust lands and assets legislatively granted to local jurisdictions and ensure that these lands and resources are used for public trust purposes providing a statewide benefit, and as provided by the three hundred plus granting statutes affecting them.
The Commission issues non-exclusive permits to qualified operators to perform low-energy geophysical surveys of the ocean bottom and marine environment. Under the Program, operators are permitted to conduct surveys using specific types of geophysical equipment subject to permit terms and conditions developed to minimize impacts to marine wildlife and the coastal environment.
Ballast water discharge and vessel biofouling of commercial ships are the primary sources of aquatic invasive species introductions in state marine waters, with as many as 4,000 species in a single ship's tank at any given time. Once established, invasive species have enormous ecological, public health, and economic impacts. Prevention of nonindigenous species introductions is the most effective approach to protect coastal waters. The Commission administers the Marine Invasive Species Program, which is a multi-agency program applying to vessels registering 300 gross tons or higher and intended to move California expeditiously towards elimination of nonindigenous species introductions into state waters.
The Commission regulates all marine oil terminals in California and monitors oil transfer operations seven days a week. Most marine oil terminals in California were built in the early 1900s when oil was carried by ships much smaller than the size of today's tankers, and before seismic safety standards and environmental review requirements were established. The Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards, known as MOTEMS, are rigorous standards designed to upgrade aging terminals to ensure better resistance to earthquakes, protect public health, and reduce the potential of an oil spill. MOTEMS are design and maintenance standards that are a part of the California Building Code and apply to all marine oil terminals in California.
The Commission has jurisdiction over offshore oil production facilities within three nautical miles of the coast and over the state’s marine oil terminals. The Commission's leadership and expertise in oil spill prevention and preparedness is essential to protecting California’s coast and waterways from oil spills and ensuring the safe transfer of oil at the state's marine oil terminals.
The Renewable Energy Program is an interdivisional, interdisciplinary team that provides leadership on renewable energy development, initiatives, and projects involving sovereign and school lands. California's renewable portfolio standard requires investor-owned utilities and electric service providers to increase procurement from renewable energy resources to 33 percent of total procurement by 2020. Additionally, the Governor has set a goal of procuring 50 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2030. The benefits of renewable energy to California’s economy and environment are enormous. The Commission is proud to partner with other agencies and contribute to achieving the state's ambitious renewable energy goals.
Geothermal is one of the energy resources that makes up the state's renewable energy portfolio. California contains the largest amount of geothermal generating capacity in the nation, with 25 known geothermal resource areas in the state. The Geothermal Energy Program has been providing California with clean, reliable, and affordable electricity for over 50 years.
The Commission and the San Diego Unified Port District formed the San Diego Ocean Planning Partnership with the goal of developing a pilot-scale marine decision-support framework and spatial analysis tool in coastal waters near San Diego County. This tool will allow for proactive, comprehensive marine resource management focused on easing resource conflicts, maximizing co-benefits of current and future ocean uses, and upholding the Public Trust responsibilities of the Commission and the San Diego Unified Port District.