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Local News

Derelict Wells on Ellwood Mesa in Goleta Up for Abandonment

Planning Commission votes to proceed with plugging nine oil, water and groundwater monitoring wells

Several derelict wells on Ellwood Mesa in Goleta are up for abandonment, as the Goleta Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday to move forward with efforts to plug the facilities for good.

Three oil wells, five water wells and one groundwater monitoring well on the Ellwood Mesa, also know as the Sperling Preserve, are marked for abandonment. The project, which has been on the city’s to-do list since just after incorporation, includes testing and assessment of the derelict oil facilities, drilling and installation of new plugs, and backfill and restoration of the disturbed project area.

A similar process is planned for the water wells. The groundwater well will be sealed as well. A maintenance and monitoring period will then take place over the next five years.

The oil wells in question are leftovers from the 1930s oil extraction efforts, after oil was discovered on the Mesa in 1929. Despite its pristine appearance, the Mesa was actually the site of rather intense oil exploration in the 1930s. The wells were plugged from 1935 to 1951, and oil exploration moved offshore to the South Ellwood Oil Field from where Platform Holly now extracts oil and gas.

In the years after the wells were plugged, the land changed hands and an attempt at residential development resulted in the drilling of the water wells. In the early years of cityhood, a complex land exchange between the city and Comstock Homes resulted in the dereliction of the water wells, as the city traded land farther inland for the open space on the Mesa on which the housing company would have built their project. The abandonment of the wells is part of the city’s land exchange obligation.

Funds for the project com from a combination of sources, including project mitigation and remediation funds and the city’s General Fund.

The city has been engaged in wildlife and habitat assessments before the work, which is expected to begin in June and last six weeks. Restoration will begin in October and last until October 2016.

“Our city’s been working on this for a long, long time,” Commissioner Jonny Wallis said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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