Surfing On Base.

AuthorKisiel, Edwin C., III
  1. Introduction II. Background A. The Military's Relationship to Surfing B. Causes of Degradation of Surfing and Diving Resources C. Economic Impact of Diving and Surfing Resources on Local Communities III. Discussion A. Current Applicable Authorities 1. National Environmental Policy Act 2. Clean Water Act a. Section 402--Discharge of Pollutants from Point Sources b. Section 404--Dredging and Fill Permit Requirements 3. Coastal Zone Management Act a. California b. Hawaii c. Florida 4. Marine Protected Area Networks 5. National Historic Preservation Act B. Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning to Protect Recreational Resources 1. Current Legal Framework for Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning 2. Resolving Compatibility of Different Ocean Uses IV Conclusion I. INTRODUCTION

    Every surfer dreams of getting barreled at Trestles or walking the nose on the long right-hander waves at San Onofre. It would also be ideal to surf a spot on Oahu with Waikiki's relaxing waves while being the only one on the peak or catching a "sunset sesh" on Kauai. For surfers, especially those in the military or their families, these experiences are possible because all of these surfing options are available on military installations. [1] These surf breaks are vital because of the benefit they provide to service members and families as well as the economic value they bring to the community. Many reefs near the shoreline of some military installations also provide a recreational venue for SCUBA divers. From a legal standpoint, preserving these surfing breaks and diving locations on and near Department of Defense (DoD) installations is imperative to fulfill the DoD's obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and National Historic Preservation Act. Additionally, sustaining surf breaks implicates public policy matters and is vital to maintaining positive relations with the community. The DoD must act proactively by considering these resources in its use and development of military installations and by preserving these sites as important cultural and natural resources. Federal installations need to prepare for coastal and marine spatial planning to become more prevalent in the coming years. Coastal and marine spatial planning will be useful for ensuring protection of ocean recreational resources and resolving compatibility of offshore energy development with mission considerations and resource preservation.

    This article begins by exploring the importance of preserving surfing and diving resources on DoD installations. Next, it will discuss the benefits and shortcomings of current preservation authorities such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and National Historic Preservation Act, and how the DoD should approach these laws relating to surfing and diving resources. Finally, the article will discuss coastal and marine spatial planning as an avenue to proactively preserve these resources and how the DoD should proceed going forward.


    Surfing breaks are unique because they are a rarity in the world. Most beach areas are not suitable for surfing. [2] Suitable areas must have good water quality, and there must be suitable wave quality, known as "surfability;" therefore, surfing is limited to much smaller areas than open-water swimming. [3] Surfability requires a specific combination of underwater topography, sediment, swell, and beach direction to generate waves useful for surfing. [4] Additionally, only certain locations have the proper wind direction and intensity (usually light, offshore winds) to make for decent surf conditions. [5] When a surf break is eliminated, or conditions deteriorate such that the waves are lower quality, the lost break cannot be replaced. [6]

    While the number of surfers has swelled, the number of surfing breaks has diminished to make way for ocean development. [7] While the true number of surfers is hard to quantify, studies indicate that there are upwards of 2.5 million surfers in the United States. [8] Participation in the sport is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated 40 percent increase in the number of surfers between 2004 and 2016. [9]

    SCUBA diving is a more recent development than surfing. The technology that allowed for breathing underwater that we use today was developed during World War II. [10] Navy SEALs specialize in SCUBA diving as part of their training at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center near Coronado, California, [11] and SCUBA diving is a prominent recreational opportunity at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [12] According to studies by a diving trade association, there are approximately 3 million active divers in the United States and about 11 million snorkelers. [13] Many service members or their family members take part in these activities.

    1. The Military'S Relationship to Surfing

      While SCUBA diving was developed by the military, [14] is a skill currently used in some special operations career fields, and is a popular recreational activity, the military has in the past had a more contentious relationship with surfing. Several quality surfing breaks are on military installations. In California, there are surfing beaches located at Vandenberg Air Force Base (near Point Conception), Naval Base Ventura County (Point Mugu), Camp Pendleton (northern San Diego County), Naval Air Station North Island (southern San Diego County) and Naval Station Coronado (southern San Diego County). [15] In Hawaii, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Pililaau Army Recreation Center, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam all host surfing spots on Oahu, with similar waves to the famed Waikiki, but without the crowds. [16] On Kauai, the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility also features a surf break. [17] On the Atlantic coast, Naval Station Mayport, Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet, and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida all have good surfing opportunities. [18] Several other bases in coastal locations have surfing breaks close to the installation. These surfing breaks provide a morale and recreation benefit to the service members and their families stationed at those locations.

      The military's current relationship to surfing breaks has improved over historical approaches. One prime example of military action that destroyed surf breaks was the installation of the breakwater to protect the port of Long Beach and the Navy fleet during World War II. [19] In the 1940s, two sections of breakwater were constructed to complement a seawall at the mouth of the San Pedro harbor. At the time, Long Beach had been a popular surfing location. Its waves were compared to Waikiki, the gentle, rolling waves in Hawaii, and it even hosted a world surfing tournament. [20] However, with the construction of the Long Beach breakwater, the result was an end to Long Beach's surfing; in addition to creating diminished water quality from the poor circulation. [21]

      At Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, construction of the Reef Runway in the 1970s also likely destroyed surfable waves. [22] Honolulu International Airport and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam share the use of the Reef Runway. [23] The Air Force, Army, and Navy donated land from Hickam Air Force Base to support the project. [24] The Reef Runway was built offshore on top of a coral reef complex. [25] The Navy had operated a recreational beach facility at the location that had to be closed. [26] The water in this area had already been polluted by prior military dredging activities and wastewater discharge. [27] Given the pollution, and that the recreational use of the reef was limited to activities "requiring only a minimum of contact with the water," the use of the reef for surfing was not analyzed in the Environmental Impact Statement. [28] The project was opposed by environmental groups, who unsuccessfully sought an injunction on the basis that the Environmental Impact Statement insufficiently assessed the environmental impact of the offshore runway construction. [29] The Reef Runway used by Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam represents an example of a coral reef habitat and likely reef surfing break that was initially degraded with military use and later outright destroyed. [30] A small reef surfing break on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, known as Hickam Beach, remains to the west of the Reef Runway. [31]

      Current approaches to surfing and diving resources are more ambivalent. While the policy of the DoD and military services is that mission always comes first, the military services support the use of DoD property for recreational activities when it does not conflict with mission purposes. [32] Of the military bases that have surfable waves, Camp Pendleton's use of the coastal area is the most intensive because the Marine Corps focuses on amphibious operations and conducts training there. [33] However, the cobblestone bottom of Trestles and San Onofre makes the location exquisite for surfers but not amenable to training, so the impact of training activities in the location is minimal. [34] Trestles has been prioritized for recreational use since President Richard Nixon brokered a lease with California to operate the coastal area as a state park in 1971. [35] That 50-year lease will expire in 2021. [36] This military surfing amenity provides a significant benefit to the economy of the town of San Clemente, which neighbors the surf breaks. [37] One example of the military's recognition of the importance of this resource is through environmental analysis prior to major federal actions on Camp Pendleton. [38] For example, when the Marine Corps acquired and implemented use of a new amphibious assault vehicle, they analyzed the impact to Camp Pendleton's surfing breaks. [39] The Marine Corps' recognition of the importance of maintaining surfing breaks while accomplishing their mission highlights that the approaches taken...

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