The California Coastal Commission will consider permanently closing a large portion of Sands Beach to protect endangered snowy plovers at its meeting Friday in Los Angeles.
UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve submitted a permit application and notice of impending development to the Coastal Commission, requesting permission to close a 400-meter long section of the beach except for a narrow walking corridor near the water level. The university also asked to put up informational signs, and to close and restore the Delta Trail, a 623-foot trail leading from the Coal Oil Point parking lot to the eastern margin of the Devereux Slough.
Santa Barbara County will ask the Coastal Commission to delay action for two months to allow for more public comment, 3rd District Supervisor’s Assistant Mark Chaconas said.
“We got a commitment to keep the community in the information loop and to date I haven’t seen that unfold,” Chaconas said. “I’m for protecting the species as much as possible, but we believe in process.”
The beach area has a temporary fence, which Reserve Director Christina Sandoval said has reduced disturbances to the plover by 90 percent. Before the fence was put in plovers were being disturbed every 20 minutes, Sandoval said. The new fences would be permanent and would surround the plover’s habitat at the mouth of the Devereux Slough.
Some residents of Isla Vista have criticized Sandoval, who lives on the dunes at Coal Oil Point, for what they call “bad science.” Brad Hufschmid, a high school science teacher and 20-year I.V. resident, said Sandoval’s husband, Marine Science Institute researcher Kevin Lafferty has done all the scientific studies. Hufschmid said Sandoval and Lafferty are not plover experts.
“He was setting out to show that the plovers were being harmed,” Hufschmid said. “There’s so much science that needs to be done. I’m a rabid environmentalist, but this is criminal.”
Shana Gray, a coastal program analyst in the Coastal Commission’s Ventura office, said the proposal was consistent with the California Coastal Act and that the roughly 15-person staff in the office recommended approval. Gray and the Coastal Commission staff reviewed the university’s plover studies before making their decision.
“It’s a balance between public access and protection of resources, and we found that the balance they have is consistent with the Coastal Act,” Gray said.