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Taxing for sand that will soon wash away.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 16, 2008


There is an issue on the November ballot that shouldn't be there, having been decided by a vote of the people on June 2, 2008. Failing to achieve a 2/3 majority, Prop G is back as Prop K, and once again the wisdom of artificial sand replenishment and the need for ecological restoration is being discussed in Encinitas.

As one of the signatories of the Prop K opposition ballot statement, it needs to be stated that my objection is about process, planning, and the inability of regional leaders to consider anything other than short term remedies in the face of a long-term environmental degradation.

Seasonal sand levels are a surface issue. Ecology is much deeper. The geological and hydrological processes placing sand on local beaches have been altered by infrastructure projects like roads, railroads, jetties, pleasure harbors, sea walls and river channeling. Upstream sand mining has also played a significant role in diminishing sand quantities year after year.

In 2001, the San Diego Association of Governments spent 17.5 million dollars, of state and federal money, to spread 2.1 million cubic yards of sand dredged from offshore, along San Diego County's 70-mile coastline.

Where did all the sand go?

I'm certain most rational people will agree there is more to coastal restoration than pumping sand on the beach. And I know most people understand wide sandy beaches to be good for tourism and recreation sports. Sandy beaches also buffer bluff top homes from an apathetic ocean.

Sand is natural Sand is good. In southern California, sand is also a political flash point. Make no mistake "I am pro-sand!" I am also pro-ecological restoration, pro-environmental stewardship, pro-fiscal restraint, and pro long-term planning.

Ecological restoration is necessary if coastline preservation efforts are to succeed. Placing sand on the beach knowing it will soon be washed away hardly makes sense. Yet those asking for increased taxation for aesthetic mitigation do so without proposing policy focused on undoing the environmental damage resulting from infrastructure blocking geological processes of natural sand replenishment.

Separating estuaries from the ocean no longer makes sense.

Sand replenishment is only part of the solution. Like most coastal environmentalists, I challenge the economic wisdom of expensive mitigation efforts when the cause of diminishing sand levels are not vigorously addressed or remedied.

Before SANDAG and local government assess any more taxes on tourism or tourist lodgings to spend on non sustainable mitigation measures, they should devise a restoration plan that includes removing all man made structures currently blocking the flow of sand to North County beaches. To do anything else would be to delay the inevitable at significant expense.

A No vote on prop K is not an vote against sand, beaches, or coastal bluffs. A No vote on K is a vote in favor of wise planning and environmental stewardship.

Thank you for voting.

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