California will spend $1.5 million on Central Coast projects if the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management approves a draft Coastal Impact Assistance Plan (CIAP).

The $1.5 million, part of $15.4 million the state received from the federal government as part of a bill to mitigate the impacts of offshore oil drilling, would be divided into four separate projects. Santa Barbara County’s Coastal Commission (CCC) would be granted $400,000 to update oil and gas extraction policies, $282,000 would be used to examine the Ellwood Beach Plan amendments, $250,000 would be used to support Ventura County’s Wetlands Task Force and the restoration of Santa Cruz Island would be granted $500,000.

Under the law that set aside the funding, states must come up with a plan detailing how they will use the money, and submit it to the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, a proponent of the California plan, said she is pleased to see local projects in the draft.

“This funding will help protect our air and water quality, open space and coastal wetlands,” she said. “It will also help our local government address the adverse impacts of oil and gas development.”

The grant allows the CCC and Santa Barbara County the funds necessary to analyze previous coastal policies and decide which ones should be reworked.

Jackson said it is necessary for the county and the CCC to take a serious look at policies concerning the extraction of gas and oil along the Santa Barbara coast.

“There haven’t been updates in quite some time,” Jackson said. “This process is long overdue but critical to Santa Barbara’s future.”

CIAP funding would go toward the cultivation and analysis of amendments to the Ellwood Beach Plan – a local issue involving the trading of UCSB, private and county property to create spaces for both development and preservation. Santa Barbara County Planning Supervisor David Lackie said the county and university are working together to prepare a management plan for all properties in the Ellwood Beach area.

“Our goal is to relocate developments from the bluffs and to identify open space for coastal access,” Lackie said. “This grant money will help with the preparation of our master plan, provide funds for consultation and assist in the processing of amendments.”

The CIAP would also provide funding for Ventura County’s Wetlands Task Force, an organization which collects data about the wetlands and restores them from the negative effects of offshore drilling. The task force, which has been operating for two years with no funding, intends to use grant money to hire a coordinator and continue research, said John Flynn, a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

The restoration of Santa Cruz Island has been given $500,000 to deal with the effects of large populations of non-native species residing on the island. Domestic pigs – which were introduced to Santa Cruz Island in the mid-1800s – have destroyed numerous native plant species, and non-native golden eagles have preyed on local island fox, causing their population to reach a catastrophic low. CIAP funding will go toward fencing and ultimately eliminating pigs from the island, as well as protecting the endangered island fox and threatened plant life.

California Governor Gray Davis said the CIAP offers California an unprecedented opportunity to help protect ocean resources.

“This effort is a prime example of how federal, state and local governments can work together to fund projects to protect the environment,” Davis wrote in a statement. “[The grant] will help address critical shoreline erosion problems along our entire 1,100-mile-long coast.”

The Coastal Impact Assistance Plan still awaits a 30-day public review process, which will then be subject to approval by the Federal Office of Coastal Resource Management.

Jackson said the community seems very supportive of the plan.

“I anticipate there shouldn’t be a whole lot of problems getting such a plan passed, “said Jackson. “I’m delighted that these projects are being funded and we’re putting time into them.”