Goleta city officials have until the end of the month to determine the fate of the only sandy beach in its domain, including whether or not it will remain sandy.

Goleta Beach, which lies just south of UCSB, loses roughly 20 feet of sand each year to wave erosion as well as other factors. If nothing is done to combat the erosion, several structures on the waterfront of Goleta Beach – including the pier, Beachside Bar-Cafe and county maintained facilities – may soon have a much closer ocean view than they already enjoy.

The only existing defense against the ocean current, which sweeps sand away from the beach and down the coast, is a rock wall that was scheduled for removal in 2003. Critics of the rock revetment claim that it will eventually damage other parts of the beach as well as the local sand migration pattern.

The Santa Barbara County Parks Commission gathered last month to consider two separate proposals for the future of the beach, said Colleen Lund, project manager for Santa Barbara County parks. The first plan recommends relocating the park’s facilities further inland as part of a “managed-retreat” plan.

Meanwhile, the second solution involves constructing permeable groins, which trap sediments to keep existing sand on the beach. The commission will reconvene and chose an option by the end of the month, Lund said.

“In 2005, we lost all of the sandy beach area,” Lund said, referring to the effects of the unusually strong storm season in 2005. “There was a six foot drop-off from the edge of the lawn [to the beach].”

According to Lund, each plan would cost the county about $9 million, but it would likely be a one-time cost and would be cheaper than periodically dredging the beach and replacing the lost sand. Lund, who has no preference for either plan, said she believes both options are feasible.

The Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating the protection of oceans and beaches, has also been involved in finding a solution to Goleta Beach’s erosion problem. Scott Bull, chair of the Santa Barbara chapter of Surfrider, said he is worried that the county might put off a permanent solution until a later date – like it has done with the current rock wall, which was slated for removal four years ago.

“Surfrider is against putting up hard structures,” Bull said. “Hard structures are known to cause beach erosion. There’s a temporary rock revetment in place since 2002, it was required to be removed in 2003, but the county has been receiving an extension. It will cause greater damage in the long term.”

Bull also noted that even though the erosion is noticeable, it is a natural process and cannot be stopped by installing hard structures like the revetment that is currently in place.

“There’s a natural ebb and flow of sand,” Bull said. “Surfrider will only support a project that preserves and restores Goleta’s only sandy beach while also providing ample recreational opportunities for people at Goleta Beach County Park.”