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State Facts

Miles of Coast: 3,427

Coastal Population (2000): 25,520,252

Lead Coastal Management Agencies: California Coastal Commission, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, State Coastal Conservancy

Approval Date: 1978

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Ocean and Coastal Management in California

capitola recreation

The California Coastal Management Program addresses many coastal issues and holds regular meetings to allow the public to participate in the decision making process.


California’s Coastal Program

The California Coastal Program, approved by NOAA in 1978, is comprised of three parts. The California Coastal Commission manages development along the California coast except for San Francisco Bay, where the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission oversees development. The third agency, the California Coastal Conservancy, purchases, protects, restores, and enhances coastal resources, and provides access to the shore. The primary authorities for the Coastal Program are the California Coastal Act, McAteer-Petris Act, and Suisan Marsh Preservation Act.

The California coastal zone generally extends 1,000 yards inland from the mean high tide line. In significant coastal estuarine habitat and recreational areas it extends inland to the first major ridgeline or five miles from the mean high tide line, whichever is less. In developed urban areas, the boundary is generally less than 1,000 yards. The coastal zone for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission includes the open water, marshes and mudflats of greater San Francisco Bay, and areas 100 feet inland from the line of highest tidal action. The boundary also includes the Suisun marsh and buffer zone, managed wetlands diked off from the Bay, and open waters diked off from the Bay and used in salt production.

The Coastal Program uses a variety of planning, permitting, and non-regulatory mechanisms to manage its coastal resources. Both the California Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission implement well-established permitting and planning programs. The Coastal Commission's activities range from helping local communities develop local coastal plans that address water quality, cumulative and secondary impacts, coastal habitat, and other issues to developing regional public access guides. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) is currently identifying the risks associated with climate change over the next 100 years and developing strategies for adapting to a changing climate.  BCDC is also is a partner in the effort to restore over 15,000 acres of former salt ponds in the South Bay. The Conservancy focuses on restoration, land acquisition, and public access projects.

California’s National Estuarine Research Reserves

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 1,400-acre natural area, is located 3.5 miles east of Moss Landing. The Reserve was designated in 1979 and the lead management agency is the California Department of Fish and Game. Elkhorn Slough is one of the relatively few coastal wetlands remaining in California. The main channel of the slough, which winds inland nearly seven miles, is flanked by a broad salt marsh second in size in California only to San Francisco Bay. The Reserve lands also include oak woodlands, grasslands and freshwater ponds that provide essential coastal habitats that support a great diversity of native organisms and migratory animals.

The Reserve’s Visitor Center introduces visitors to the unseen wonders of the slough. Visitors can access five miles of trails and kayaking opportunities are also available. Education programs include teacher workshops, docent-led public walks, and coastal decision-maker workshops.   Staff, volunteers, and visiting researchers participate in research activities including continuous monitoring of weather, water quality, erosion, and organism distribution.

The San Francisco Bay Reserve, a 3,700-acre natural area, is comprised of two components: Rush Ranch and China Camp State Park. The Reserve was designated in 2003 and the lead management agency is the San Francisco State University Romberg Tiburon Center.

The San Francisco Bay has lost most of its historic tidal wetlands due to development pressures within and around the bay. Tidal wetlands are critical for flood prevention; sediment management; and habitat for small mammals, migratory birds, and fish species, many of which are threatened and endangered. The primary focus of the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is to support tidal marsh restoration through research, monitoring, and education.

The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 2,500-acre natural area, is located near Imperial Beach in San Diego County, on the Mexican border. The Reserve was designated in 1982 and the lead management agency is the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The Reserve is located in a highly urbanized environment and encompasses beach, dune, mudflat, saltmarsh, riparian, coastal sage and upland habitats.

The Reserve provides various outreach and educational opportunities and has developed an inter-disciplinary high school curriculum designed to educate students about the valuable Tijuana River. Research and stewardship activities include water quality and bird monitoring, removal of invasive species, sediment management, and habitat restoration.  

Program Achievements

Southern California Implements Wetlands Recovery Project

California Launches Critical Coastal Areas Program

West Coast Governors' Agreement on Ocean Health

Links

California Coastal Commission —The website provides information on the Commission’s public meetings, public access, local coastal programs, water quality, and other topics.

San Francisco Bay Conservation Development Commission — The website provides information on the Commission’s public meetings, public access and the Bay Trail, and other topics

California State Coastal Conservancy — The website provides information on the Conservancy’s projects and grant programs.

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve’s website provides information on their research, education, and stewardship activities.

San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve’s website provides information on their research, education, and stewardship activities.

Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology — This program brief describes investments in technology development and research projects for the state of California.

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve’s website provides information on their research, education, and stewardship activities.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary — National Marine Sanctuaries conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of important ocean and coastal areas. The website includes information about the Sanctuary's management, education and outreach, and research activities.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary — National Marine Sanctuaries conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of important ocean and coastal areas. The website includes information about the Sanctuary's management, education and outreach, and research activities.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary — National Marine Sanctuaries conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of important ocean and coastal areas. The website includes information about the Sanctuary's management, education and outreach, and research activities.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary — National Marine Sanctuaries conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of important ocean and coastal areas. The website includes information about the Sanctuary's management, education and outreach, and research activities.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in California.

California Coastal Nonpoint Program Conditional and Final Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval in 2000.

California Coastal Program Evaluation (2010) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2011) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

San Francisco National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2007) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2010) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

California Coastal Commission and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Contact Information for California’s Programs

California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 904-5200

San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
50 California St., Suite 2600
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 352-3600

California Coastal Conservancy
1330 Broadway, 11th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 286-1015

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
1700 Elkhorn Road
Watsonville, CA 95076
(831) 728-2822

San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
SFSU-Romberg Tiburon Center
3152 Paradise Drive
Tiburon, CA 94920-1205
(415) 338-3703

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Tijuana River Reserve
301 Caspian Way
Imperial Beach, CA 91932
(619) 575-3613