The decade-long effort to protect Goleta Beach County Park took a major step forward this last week when the Santa Barbara County Parks Dept. unveiled “Goleta Beach 2.0.” This plan would move parking spaces and utility lines threatened by coastal erosion further inland, reconfigure the park and add many recreational amenities such as kayak rentals, better bike access and interpretive trails.
This new plan was proposed in the wake of the California Coastal Commission’s dramatic 9-1 denial of the County’s multi-million dollar “permeable pile” project last year. That controversial project would have trapped sand at Goleta Beach behind large wooden pilings, but in doing so would have interfered with the down-coast movement of sand to other beaches. The Environmental Defense Center (www.edcnet.org) and the Surfrider Foundation organized opposition to the pilings project and are currently organizing support for Goleta Beach 2.0.
For those who simply think of Goleta Beach 2.0 as the second chapter of a never-ending saga, I have some words of encouragement. If done correctly, the debate can soon be over. Goleta Beach can be dramatically enhanced and the natural process of coastal erosion that has plagued us thus far can finally be dealt with properly.
Goleta Beach 2.0 is a dramatic shift in the way in which the county plans on dealing with the current problem of erosion, but if not done correctly will only act as a temporary fix. Plans for an expensive and controversial sand-trapping groin have been rejected and the county is now moving towards a much more acceptable approach. It includes reconfiguring part of the park, including the western parking lot and underground sewer and utility lines, and moving them out of the erosion zone. To me, this seems like a no-brainer and I am happy to see that the county is going about this project in a sensible manner.
As a current UCSB student who frequently uses the beach, I am also thrilled about talk of the unpermitted boulder seawall on the western end of the beach finally being removed and the beach expanded there by an acre. The project is moving in the right direction but if the sewer and utility lines in the critical erosion zone are not moved far enough out of harm’s way, over time they may again be threatened. I plan on staying in Santa Barbara and would hate to see this issue resurface in the future. The country needs to move those lines all the way back to Highway 217 where they will be safe for years to come.
Not only does the failure to move those lines back to the 217 pose the threat of a sewage spill on Goleta Beach in the future if current erosion continues, but it also makes this entire process a temporary fix. It may require installation of a backstop seawall (called a “revetment”) which, over time, will displace and erode the beach. The dynamics of erosion and natural sand movement change from year to year. Some experts have shown that we are moving into a cycle that may move more sand onto the beach over the coming years. But suppose that we have another strong El Nino winter that causes enough erosion to threaten the sewage and utility lines again. I don’t want to go to the beach and see massive boulders being dumped on the sand to protect those very lines that could have been moved to safety.
Goleta Beach 2.0 is a sensible plan and would preserve the beach for residents for years to come, as long as it is done correctly. I urge any Santa Barbara resident who cares about the future of Goleta Beach to show up at the April 7 Planning Commission meeting, 9:30 a.m. at 123 E. Anapamu Street, and ask the county to please get this job done right the first time by moving forward with the new Goleta Beach Project and moving the utility lines out of harm’s way.