State Lands Commission June 2019 Meeting Highlights
The Commission held its June public meeting in San Diego, where many of the State’s most beautiful public lands, beaches, and natural resources are located. At the meeting, the Commission approved the issuance of dozens of leases and permits authorizing public use of lands and waterways throughout the State of California, and took other actions relating to lands and resources under its jurisdiction. Highlights from the meeting are below.
Lease Compliance/Oil and Gas Lease Termination
The Commission terminated three offshore oil and gas leases and a pipeline right of way lease located offshore Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties because the lessees failed to comply with their lease obligations. The offshore oil and gas lessee, Carone Petroleum Corporation, has not paid rent in years. These lease terminations mean that the area under lease, about 4,000 acres, become part of California’s Coastal Sanctuary. The other lessee, Signal Hill Service Inc., has also failed to fulfill its rent and bond obligations to the State of California. The Commission’s decision was based solely on the lessees failure to maintain their contractual obligations to the State of California.
Tijuana River Pollution
The Commission manages State sovereign land in and near the Tijuana River Estuary. Last year, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board filed a lawsuit against the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission for Clean Water Act violations. The Commission joined the litigation shortly thereafter. At the June meeting, the Commission received an informational update about the ongoing pollution, and as part of that, heard from the Port of San Diego, the Surfrider Foundation, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board, and Paloma Aguirre, Councilmember with the City of Imperial Beach. The Port of San Diego described the Port’s efforts to address the issue through litigation and coordination with elected officials. The Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board explained the harm caused by the raw sewage and trash flowing through state sovereign lands, including caustic chemicals burning Border Patrol agents and tires providing habitat for disease-carrying mosquitos. The Director also described the Water Board’s efforts in recent decades to address the water quality problems and its next steps when federal leadership falters. Councilmember Aguirre spoke about the devastating effects of the pollution on the City’s economy and recreational opportunities, and about recent funding secured in the budget that Governor Newsom signed a few days ago. The Surfrider Foundation provided an overview of their recent report describing potential infrastructure solutions to stop transboundary pollution.
Abandoned Commercial Vessels in the Sacramento—San Joaquin Delta
Because of its expanse and hundreds of miles of waterways, the Delta is often the dumping ground for many of the vessels abandoned in northern and central California. The Commission approved an Abandoned Commercial Vessel Removal Plan for the five-county Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The report, required under recent legislation (AB 2441, Fraizer), prioritizes vessel removal based on a set ofcriteria used in the State of Washington, and because funding is a key challenge, the Plan develops a cost basis to create and fund an effective abandoned commercial vessel removal program for the Delta. The Plan, developed in collaboration with state and local stakeholders, does the following: 1. Develops a risk-based systematic approach for prioritizing vessels. 2. Enhances and further develops the Commission’s existing Abandoned Vessel Program infrastructure to facilitate abandoned commercial vessel removal efforts. 3: Develops a cost basis for Program budgeting, and; 4. Provides recommendations to help prevent ongoing abandoned commercial vessel problems. Going forward, staff will continue to work with stakeholders and the Legislature to secure funding and implement the Plan.
The Commission voted to sponsor legislation to grant the City of San Diego certain land in the vicinity of Mission Bay, known as the Famosa Slough parcels, that are associated with a land exchange agreement between the Commission and the City of San Diego. Famosa Slough provides about 30 acres of tidal wetlands and open space for the public to use and enjoy. The Commission also voted to support legislation to establish and fund a Coastal Adaptation, Access, and Resiliency Program (AB 552, Stone), and legislation that would require a new contemporary coastal access program at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County. The legislation, AB 1680 (Limón), would require the California Coastal Commission, in collaboration with the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the State Lands Commission, to expeditiously develop a new coastal access plan for Hollister Ranch. At the federal level, the Commission voted to support two bills intended to facilitate the removal of spent nuclear fuel at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California and to identify a safe, secure long-term facility for the spent fuel to be stored. The bills the Commission adopted a support position on are The Spent Fuel Prioritization Act of 2019 introduced by U.S. Representative Mike Levin and the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019 introduced by U.S. Representative Jerry McNerney.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The Commission directed staff to work with the California Legislature to develop a resolution that would memorialize California’s opposition to federal preemption of California’s authority to protect state waters, memorialize California’s commitment to preserve and strengthen its world-leading program to reduce the risk of aquatic nonindigenous species introductions into state waters, and to consider appropriate actions to overturn or curtail the federal preemption. Preventing marine invasive species introductions from vessels calling at California ports is one of the Commission’s two core regulatory duties. Staff will work with the Legislature in the coming weeks on a resolution consistent with the Commission’s direction.
New Public GIS-based Interactive Spatial Tools
The Commission received an informational update about two innovative GIS-based interactive spatial tools relating to the San Diego Ocean Planning Partnership and a sea-level rise web mapping application. The web mapping application for the San Diego Partnership is a public, interactive site where ocean users and decision-makers can explore and visualize publicly available data relevant to the coast and ocean offshore San Diego County. Web-mapping application users may select different layers, overlay them, and use myriad features and tools to assess and analyze how ocean resources and uses interact with one another. Another new application unveiled at the meeting is the Commission’s new sea-level rise viewer, an interactive visualization tool developed to assist with sea-level rise planning, lease application review, and lease management. The innovative thinking involved in the development of these modern tools is remarkable; the tools are a wonderful resource for the public to learn about their public trust lands and resources. They also serve as a springboard for staff to develop additional educational resources to assist the public and connect the public with its trust lands and resources.
Legislatively Granted Public Trust Lands and Sea Level Rise
Sea-level rise adaptation and planning are among the Commission’s highest priorities. The Commission received an informational update about a law (AB 691, Muratsuchi, 2013) that requires many local trustees of granted public trust lands to assess their vulnerability to sea-level rise and begin to formulate feasible and effective adaptation and resiliency measures. Assessments are due to the Commission by July 1, 2019. Staff updated the Commission on the progress local trustees have made and next steps.
The Commission’s next public meeting is on August 23, 2019, in Southern California. Additional Information, including location, the agenda, and staff reports, will be posted on our website as they become available.