About 20 feet under the ground's surface, crews were busily working Monday morning on a pipeline upgrade project for a local sewer service provider that will accommodate growth in capacity for the Goleta Valley and move existing pipes out of a sensitive wetland habitat.
The Goleta West Sanitary District is working on its biggest capital project yet, replacing the main pipeline that feeds into its pump station to accommodate more capacity, and the district's general manager, Mark Nation, gave Noozhawk a tour of the progress.
The current 33-inch pipeline runs adjacent to Mesa Road, through a wetland between Los Carneros Road and Harder Stadium on UC Santa Barbara's campus.
The new pipeline will be 42 inches in diameter and should last the district for the next 100 years, based on the growth projections from the General Plan of the city of Goleta as well as the master plan of Isla Vista, both areas that the district serves.
"It's a significant increase (in capacity)," Nation said.
The line currently runs under wetland area and for two decades, the Goleta Slough Management Committee has encouraged the district to relocate it underneath the paved road.
There's never been a spill into the wetland, but the committee has urged the district to move it to protect the area from the possibility of a spill.
An abandoned 15-inch line from the early 1970s was left underneath the wetland area when the district upgraded to the pipes they use currently. That abandoned line will be reclaimed and removed from the site, and Nation called the upgrade and the environmental benefits a "win-win."
The $9.5 million project is being funded entirely by the district's reserves.
The district, which only has six employees, has been financially conservative and had been planning on this project for years, Nation said.
"We are paying for it in cash," he said. "This pipe should theoretically serve the community for the next 100 years."
The district serves the Bacara Resort & Spa and Rancho Embarcadero by contract on its westernmost boundaries, Isla Vista to the south and the city of Goleta in its urban limit line.
The work on the Mesa Road project began in June and should wrap up by December of this year, Nation said.
Nation, who grew up on the Mesa and has worked at the district for 21 years, says he's seen an uptick in growth in the district over the last five years.
The district has been in operation in 1954, before the area experienced a boom in growth.
A large aerial photograph in the district's offices show Isla Vista in 1959, which shows a few apartment buildings but a remarkable amount of open space around Pardall, Trigo and many other roads that are completely built out now.
One shows Goleta before Camino Real Marketplace was built and has ball fields where Costco now sits.
Passersby in the area will noticed that Mesa Road has been closed off at Los Carneros and Stadium roads, and Nation said he hopes to have the road open to through traffic again by the time UCSB begins fall classes in September.