The city of Goleta and Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper filed a lawsuit Thursday, June 6 in an attempt to overturn the April 9 decision to expand Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

The proposed $16 million project would shift the current runway 800 feet west and add safety overruns at each end of the runway. The overruns would be 1,000-foot long strips of banked pavement that would slow down airplanes that miss the runway. In order to accommodate the runway extensions, 13 acres of Goleta Slough would be destroyed and Tecolotito and Los Carneros Creeks would be relocated.

The safety strips are one of the newest Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The current safety areas are only 300 feet long.

Goleta City Council unanimously opposed the project, which was approved by the California Coastal Commission. The city council favors an alternative called Engineered Material Arresting System, which consists of crumbled concrete at the end of the runway.

The CCC has found the EMAS system to be an ineffective alternative because it provides no protection for planes that undershoot the runway. Another benefit of the safety strips is a reduced emergency response time to areas where crashes are most likely to occur. The EMAS system does not provide easier emergency access to the runway. Airport Director Karen Ramsdell said EMAS would still require some areas of Goleta Slough to be bulldozed.

“The proposed project is not permitted under the Coastal Act,” says the Superior Court lawsuit filed by Goleta and Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper. “Alternatives exist that would allow airport expansion without destroying the wetlands.”

The Coastal Act is a state law protecting wetlands. In order to offset the negative environmental effects, the airport expansion plan includes a provision to enhance 35 acres of seasonal wetlands and tidal areas in another part of the slough.

Goleta City Council also opposes the project because it would move the runway 1,000 feet toward Ellwood residential areas, bringing aircraft closer to homes. The City Council fears complaints from residents about noise pollution as well as safety issues.

There has not yet been a date set for the lawsuit to be heard.