The California Coastal Commission held a hearing in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room on Wednesday to determine whether to reaffirm the County’s Goleta Beach Permit Application that would permanently retain beach revetments.

Santa Barbara County received an emergency permit from the California Coastal Commission following rainstorms in 2004 to put in rock sloping structures to absorb the impact of ocean waves. The revetments protect infrastructures such as walkways, bike paths, restrooms, parking areas and utility lines. In March 2014, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to retain the park’s current features, including the buried revetment that protects the park, and the permit is now up for reaffirmation.

Coastal Program Analyst Deanna Christensen said a 1,200-foot-long, 11-foot-wide revetment was built to protect the shores, yet storms continue to damage the surrounding park area.

“The park continues to experience periodic storms and high surf that threaten park facilities,” Christensen said.

According to Christensen, Goleta beach attracts more than 1.5 million visitors per year for its natural beauty and recreational activities.

“This park is a very popular coastal access point in this area that provides low-cost public beach access, and the park’s facilities provide a wide variation of coastal recreational opportunities,” Christensen said.

Christensen also said the Coastal Commission conducted studies and determined the revetment has not caused environmental damage to the coastal beaches.

“The beach has a different orientation and, unlike other beaches, it is more like a bay,” Christensen said. “The county worked with professor Gary Griggs who is a recognized expert on sea level rise and erosion issues as presented at the Coastal Commission. The revetment for which they seek approval actually has had no negative impact to down-the-coast beaches.”

Santa Barbara County second district supervisor and UCSB alumnus Janet Wolf said hours of public hearings, a 500-person survey and complex environmental and engineering studies collectively determined the revetment is not an environmental threat.

“Our community services department commissioned a survey that affirmed what we intuitively knew: that Goleta beach is a very important place for our community,” Wolf said.

According to Wolf, the second district voted unanimously at their meeting in 2004 to obtain the permit for the revetment at Goleta beach.

“Our Board of Supervisors did not take this decision for our application lightly, we based our decision on the facts, science and conclusions in the EIR [Environmental Impact Report],” Wolf said.

Wolf said she is hopeful the Coastal Commission will approve the permit after over a decade of debate, research, studies and hearings that prove the revetment is safe to use on the beach.

“Groups and individuals who represent a wide variety of opinions and constituencies stand in agreement that the fight over how to best protect Goleta Beach Park may now end,” Wolf said. “The County has presented a solution based upon science that, when combined with the conditions recommended by Coastal Commission staff, will ensure that future generations will enjoy this treasured beach park.”

Executive Officer Supervisor Renee Bahl said her goal in passing the permit is to help preserve the beach through bad weather conditions in order to increase public beach access.

“Our goal with this project is to maximize recreation access for all,” Bahl said. “To help meet this goal, we are requesting to retain the rock revetments as part of an adaptive management plan and a prescribed monitoring plan.”

Chief Council of the Environmental Defense Center Linda Krop said the revetments present several environmental impacts to the coastline and ocean shore.

“The evidence we have submitted shows that the west end of the rock revetment is frequently exposed and has already caused impacts on public access, recreation and coastal views in violation of the Coastal Act,” Krop said.

Santa Barbara Surfrider Vice Chair Everett Lipman said he agrees with Krop about removing the west end rocks of the revetment due to the lack of sand coverage.

“We are 14 months after the last storm and they tell you that the sand will naturally recover this, but, in fact, it remains exposed,” Lipman said.

Goleta City Mayor Paula Perotte said the Goleta City Council supports the County Board of Supervisors in passing the revetment permits at Goleta beach.

“At this time, retaining the existing revetments in place is the most logical, cost effective and resource sensitive strategy to protect our county’s most popular park,” Perotte said. “Without the revetments, lawn and recreation infrastructure will become exposed and eventually lost.”

The request was ultimately approved by the California Coastal Commission.

A version of this story appeared on page 6 of the Thursday, May 14, 2015 print edition of the Daily Nexus.