With the California Coastal Commission in town for their monthly meeting, a local group invited one official to breakfast this week to discuss coastal issues that the state and the city of Newport Beach are currently facing.
Steve Kinsey, CCC commissioner and Marin County supervisor, spoke at the Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Up! Newport meeting on Wednesday morning.
“We have to live in the very, very, very, very present, in terms of the issues that are coming before us at the Coastal Commission,” Kinsey said. “And these are not little issues, these are big issues.”
Desalination is one significant issue at hand, and Kinsey and his fellow commissioners faced it on Wednesday as they discussed and debated a proposed “desal” plant in Huntington Beach.
The proposed desalination facility would be located next to the AES Huntington Beach Power Station.
After many hours of discussion with several hundred people in attendance and overflowing council chambers at the civic center, the commission voted to postpone the decision until the project is more thoroughly studied by Poseidon Water, the company proposing the plant.
California’s policy on the issue is “very clear,” he said, “desalination is an important part of our future.”
This type of facility is coastal dependent, he said, and the challenge is managing it and using the right technology while still appropriately protecting the coast.
“It’s really a balancing of how to make that technology work while still protecting our marine resources,” he added.
Kinsey also mentioned a few of the Newport Beach issues the commission has been involved with, including Sunset Ridge Park, which he called an “exciting new park opportunity.”
“That’s an example of where we could do better as a Coastal Commission,” Kinsey said.
It took three tries for the commission to approve it, which Kinsey called “an absolutely appropriate use.”
He applauded Newport’s perseverance on the matter and said the commission should have acted differently.
“Shame on us for not recognizing it and figuring out how to make that happen more quickly,” he said.
It will stand as an example on how the commission needs to work with staff to do better for communities, he said.
Another “remarkable” project currently in the works concerning Newport Beach is Banning Ranch, Kinsey noted.
“It’s probably going to be the most significant – in scale and consideration – project that we will face in this portion of California for a long time to come,” he said. “So it deserves a lot of thoughtful consideration.”
Newport Beach is currently working on adopting a local coastal program, Kinsey said. The local branch could then consider most permits and projects instead of the state commission, he explained. He thought Newport’s plan might be brought to the CCC for approval sometime next year.
“(I) encourage all of you to pay attention to what the city of Newport is doing with their own local coastal program,” he said. “So that when it comes before our commission it will reflect your town.”
On a larger scale, Kinsey spoke about rising sea levels.
“Probably the most significant issue that all of us face, and Newport – as a coastal city – is going to face it with us, is how we respond to and prepare for the sea level rise that we all are anticipating, and to some extent, are already experiencing in California,” he said.
The CCC is paying close attention to that issue and thinking of the future, he continued, and taking into consideration when the need to plan for adaptation and retreat will be an appropriate strategy.
“That fine line between the substantial investment that we’ve made in our coastal developments and communities and the recognition that mother nature and the forces of the planet are substantial and need to be respected as well,” he continued, will “be a major part of the Coastal Commission’s work for the next decade, at least.”
Other topics Kinsey touched on or answered questions about included agriculture, technology, transit, public access, fracking, energy, community activism, and the commission’s goals.
Kinsey also admitted that the public’s perception of the commission is “somewhat hostile.”
“Californians love the coast,” Kinsey said, “but not necessarily the Coastal Commission.”
For more information on the California Coastal Commission and the CCC agenda, visit coastal.ca.gov
For more information about the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and their next Wake Up! Newport meeting, visit newportbeach.com.