Good News on 10-Mile Dunes – Coastal Commission Rules “No Substantial Issue”

by Linda Perkins, Mendocino Group Conservation Chair

Breaking good news! on November 13th the Coastal Commission voted unanimously to uphold the 10-mile dunes project at MacKerricher State Park. This means that the funding is secure and we can all look forward to watching a recovering Dunes ecosystem. For more details, visit our website: redwood.sierraclub.org

The Chapter blog post on the 10-Mile Dunes last month left you with the news that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve Parks’ Coastal Development Permit and to deny the appeal that brought it to the Supes. Good news!

After that approval, as expected, three individual appellants carried their opposition to the next level by filing an appeal with the Coastal Commission. The primary claim of the appeal is that Parks’ proposed removal of old haul road remnants will deny them access to the ocean and to the dunes systems.

Our position is that the minor recreational use made of the continually disintegrating haul road through the dunes pales in comparison to the benefits that will accrue to protected wildlife species as a result of the planned restoration project. All access points into the Preserve remain open, as do the dunes. And most people continue to use the preferred Coastal Trail along the hard-packed sand at the shoreline – within sight of the ocean. Of course!

Both the Mendocino Group and the Redwood Chapter studied the project and submitted comments to the Coastal Commission in support, as did Congressman Jared Huffman. State Parks’ focus on ecosystem restoration – that includes hand removal of invasive beach grass and ice plant and re-planting of native species – will create an additional 250 acres of critical wintering and nesting habitat for the Western Snowy Plover, restore rare native plants and dune vegetation, and, with the haul road gone, free two streams from the constriction of obstructive culverts. What’s not to like?

Coastal Commission staff reviewed the appeal and issued a 500-page report, 40 pages of which were their “Findings and Declarations”, including their analysis of the appellants’ contentions.

Their conclusion: “Therefore, Commission staff recommends that the Commission find the appeal raises no substantial issue with respect to the grounds on which it was filed.” That’s more good news!

Now that the Commission has agree with Staff’s findings, the permit is approved and Parks can go forward with restoration of this rare and precious piece of California’s natural heritage.

Thanks to all for your letters of support that led to the Dunes being declared the winner!

Mendocino BOS Decides for the Dunes and the Plover

by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

We are delighted to be able to report that on Monday August 26 the Mendocino Board of Supervisors approved the MacKerricher Dunes Rehabilitation Project, as advocated by a number of local environmental organizations including the Sierra Club Mendocino Group.

The Inglenook Fen-Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve in Mackerricher State Park contains coastal dune and wetland habitats that support many special plant and animal species, and provide habitat for resident and migrating shorebirds. The Project intends to restore natural processes in the Preserve, which  was set aside in 1995 expressly “to preserve such features as rare or endangered plant and animal species and their supporting ecosystem,” by removing 2.7 miles of an old logging road through the dunes and along the beach, and by grubbing out invasive European Beach Grass.

After completing CEQA review, the Parks Department received a Coastal Development Permit from the County and was set to move forward until the Westport Municipal Advisory Council filed an appeal with the Board of Supervisors, arguing that removal of the old road would have negative impacts on public access and recreation.

As stated by Mendocino Group Executive Committee member Linda Perkins, “the value of these few remaining natural dune areas, home to rare plants and nesting habitat for the endangered snowy plover, far outweighs the relatively low level of recreational use of this segment, limited as it is by having been partly covered by sand and by having a large chunk washed out by the ocean. In addition, the segment to be removed is separated by almost a mile from the popular hiking and biking haul road that runs through MacKerricher State Park from Ward Avenue to Pudding Creek and that will not be affected by the project.” For additional information on the project, see the comment letter posted to the Mendocino Group website, redwood.sierraclub.org/mendocino.

This was a great victory, but please stay tuned: the Westport MAC has ten days to appeal the BOS decision to the Coastal Commission. Although it’s highly unlikely that the CC would overturn such an environmentally beneficial ruling by local government, the Chapter is standing ready to weigh in on the side of the County, the dunes and the snowy plover.