Honor Thy Dunes

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In 2011, the California Coastal Commission approved a Coastal Development Permit (CDP)that legalized Lawson’s Landing, the long-establishing campground that occupies a sensitive dunes-wetland complex at the mouth of Tomales Bay. That permit required the Lawsons to return to the Commission with an CDP amendment to put a wastewater system on the uphill, agricultural portion of their 960-acre property on a location already reviewed and approved by the Commission. The Lawsons submitted an amendment, which was heard by the Commission on November 8th in Bodega Bay.

There were two main problems with the amendment.

  • First, it proposed to place an administrative and retail complex and a wastewater system in a location (known as Area 6) that has been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) and is also the habitat of the endangered California Red-Legged Frog, a federally- and state-protected species.  The July 2011 CDP requires that all illegal development in Area 6 be removed and the habitat restored, and it expressly prohibits any future development in Area 6, apart from agriculture and improvements to the road that runs through it.
  • Second, Commission staff recommended that this illegal development be approved by using a process called Conflict Resolution, which is a way to resolve a conflict between two equally important mandates of the Coastal Act, such as coastal recreation and protection of natural resources. The Commission used conflict resolution in the original 2011 CDP to approve recreational development in wetlands and ESHA in which development is prohibited.  Having done that, it explicitly protected specific areas of ESHA from future development, including ESHA in Area 6. 

To undo those specific limitations imposed on present and future development that formed critical parts of that conflict resolution process, would signal that all such protections obtained under conflict resolution can be removed and render the process itself meaningless.

On November 8th, the Coastal Commission upheld the Coastal Act and the 2011 Coastal Development Permit and denied the amendment proposal which would have allowed large-scale development in environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA) and would have degraded endangered species habitat for red-legged frogs.

As outlined in the 2011 CDP a wastewater facility still requires construction, however, it cannot be developed in area 6 that is designated as an environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA), that includes habitat for red-legged frog. 

EAC looks forward to supporting an amendment to approve a septic system that meets the Coastal Act and Regional Water Quality Control Board standards and will allow Lawson’s Landing to move forward with this key coastal improvement.

The decision by the Commission was an important milestone for the future protection of the Tomales Dunes habitats and a reminder that “the coast is never saved, it is always being saved.” – Peter Douglas, former Executive Director of the Coastal Commission.

Thank you to our supporters and members who have followed this environmental issue with EAC for the last 30+ years, and especially to the 60 members who sent in comments and attended the hearing to ensure the Commission Honored Thy Dunes! 

Read More
EAC Website
Marin Independent Journal