Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 8:14 am | Fair 45º


Brian Trautwein and Sandy Lejeune: Give Goleta Beach Project a Chance

A new approach promises to end years of debate and save Goleta Beach Park

The Santa Barbara County Parks Department recently unveiled a creative new master plan to enhance Goleta Beach Park as a first-class recreational destination and protect its facilities from erosion. While this plan in concept has been widely praised by a variety of interested groups and citizens, one vocal opponent has suggested the county go back and retry a failed attempt at constructing an erosion control structure called a groin right on Goleta Beach — a controversial plan that was soundly defeated by state regulators in a dramatic 9-1 vote last July.

That plan was opposed by a battery of coastal scientists, engineers, biologists and environmental groups including the Environmental Defense Center, whose research clearly showed the project would have caused down-coast beaches and bluffs (e.g. More Mesa) to erode. In short, structures that trap sand or armor shorelines against erosion merely shift erosion to other areas, causing beaches to erode.

The flawed groin project was never supported by or even unveiled to the county-appointed Goleta Beach Working Group. More than 500 letters were submitted to the California Coastal Commission last year objecting to the erosion control groin because of harm to down-coast beaches. These concerned citizens wrote in support of the county’s new concept for maintaining Goleta Beach Park.

The new approach involves reconfiguring the western portion of the park and its amenities, including the western parking lot (nearest UCSB) and the underground sewer and utility lines, which are at risk from coastal erosion. The parking would be replaced just offsite with an interpretive trail and water taxi connecting to the park.

No one wants a sewage spill on Goleta Beach. The sewer and utility lines should be moved as far inland as possible to get them outside of the “critical erosion zone” identified by engineers and geologists, so that they will be safe long into the future.

In addition, unpermitted rock seawalls installed in past years finally will be removed from portions of the park to enhance public access to the beach, increase the size of the beach and restore its ecological
health. Rocks installed with permits and those pre-dating the Coastal Act, including the rock revetment in front of the restaurant, will remain in place. New recreational improvements are also planned including kayak rentals, improved bike and pedestrian access and a larger beach.

The county’s new approach promises to cost substantially less than the flawed groin project, which would have required extensive monitoring, maintenance and frequent expensive sand replenishment to try to offset losses to down-coast beaches.

With some relatively minor changes, the new plan for Goleta Beach — in concept — is acceptable to the environmental groups who defeated the groin last year, including the EDC and the Surfrider Foundation.

We believe that if these same changes are made, the Coastal Commission will also support the project. The county should be applauded for thinking out of the box and coming up with a new plan that preserves and enhances Goleta Beach as a wonderful family park and that seeks to avoid the controversy and problems that plagued the prior proposal.

We urge all stakeholders to keep an open mind and give this new compromise concept a chance.

— Brian Trautwein is an environmental analyst for the Environmental Defense Center. Sandy Lejeune is chairman of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

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