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Toward improved sediment management and coastal resilience through efficient permitting in California

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The value of sediment for helping coastal habitats and infrastructure respond to sea level rise is widely recognized. Across the country, coastal managers are seeking ways to beneficially use sediment sourced from dredging and other projects to counter coastal erosion and protect coastal resources. However, these projects are difficult to permit and have been slow to actualize. This paper draws on interviews with sediment managers and regulators in California to explore the challenges and opportunities for habitat restoration and beach nourishment within the current permitting regime. We find that permits are costly, difficult to obtain, and sometimes stand as a barrier to more sustainable and adaptive sediment management. We next characterize streamlining approaches and describe entities and ongoing efforts within California that apply them. Finally, we conclude that to keep pace with coastal losses due to climate change impacts, efforts toward efficient permitting must be accelerated and approaches diversified to support coastal resilience practices state-wide, in a timeframe that will allow coastal managers to innovate and adapt.

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  1. Unpublished survey of §404 permit applicants, invited from all applications submitted to the USACE South Pacific Division between 2013 and 2016 (Ulibarri & Tao 2019).

  2. Comprised of sediment stakeholders, the MTAG was convened to guide the Sediment Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainable Environments (SedRISE) project and met over the course of several years at various sediment modeling phases.


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The authors thank the SedRISE project MTAG members and other interviewees for sharing their valuable time and perspectives. Additionally, we thank Paroma Wagle for her participation in the interviews. This work is made possible by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise Program (#NA16NOS4780206).

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K.G.and N.U. wrote the main manuscript text and prepared tables. All authors contributed to and reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kristen A. Goodrich.

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Goodrich, K.A., Ulibarri, N., Matthew, R. et al. Toward improved sediment management and coastal resilience through efficient permitting in California. Environmental Management 72, 558–567 (2023).

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