Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 5:42 am | Fair 63º


Local News

County Supervisors Vote to Proceed with Environmental Review of Goleta Beach 2.0

Analysis of the plan, designed to shore up erosion at the popular county park, will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Goleta Beach 2.0 plan will move forward after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to use AMEC Environment and Infrastructure Inc. to conduct an environmental impact report.

Goleta Beach County Park is hugely popular, but the coastline has been heavily eroded from a series of winter storms. Although sections of rock revetment were installed in 2003 and 2005 to stop the erosion, an expired emergency permit means the county has to remove them and find a long-term solution for the park, county staff members said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The EIR will analyze the plan put forward by county staff, which includes removing 150 parking spaces at the west end, a high erosion zone; adding a new utility corridor with a berm wall to protect from erosion and relocating utilities and the bike path to that corridor; removing 950 feet of unpermitted sections of rock; and installing a sandbag-like structure on the east end to protect Goleta Sanitary District infrastructure near the Beachside Bar-Café.

The utilities would be pushed into Caltrans’ easement for Highway 217, so the county is still negotiating to get a permit for that, according to Assistant County Executive Officer Terri Nisich. The construction cost is estimated at $3.5 million, but the EIR cost will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for coastal access and recreational enhancement.

The California Coastal Commission rejected the county’s previous plan, which led county staff to develop the Goleta Beach County Park Managed Beach Retreat Project 2.0.

Planner Kevin Drude said there will be many opportunities for the public to have a say during the EIR process. A draft environmental impact report will be circulated with the project impacts, mitigation measures and alternatives, then presented to the County Planning Commission, a process he said will take about 11 months.

Surfrider and the Environmental Defense Center support Goleta Beach 2.0, and representatives said the plan will protect the park and increase pedestrian and bicyclist access.

The group Friends of Goleta Beach Park has advocated for alternative design ideas for years, and Ed De la Torre asked the county supervisors to consider them in the initial scoping so they could be thoroughly vetted.

De la Torre said the group proposes planting Canary Island date palm trees because the same species has protected Refugio Beach State Park for decades.

“People argue that it’s a different beach and a different situation,” De la Torre said. “Have you ever been at Refugio when a storm is coming in? It beats the crap out of it, same as it does here.”

In the group’s proposal, the line of palm trees would be planted at the high-tide line so they would be impacted only during big storms, De la Torre added. There are 21 trees being stored in Glen Annie Canyon, already purchased by the organization or given by UC Santa Barbara when it thinned out the palms near the residence halls.

Since the rocks were installed under a now-expired permit, leaving them in place would cost the county a $60,000 fine if it receives a notice of violation and $6,000 for every day associated with failure to remove the rocks in a timely manner, according to county staff.

When the rocks are removed, they’ll be stored at a Public Works yard nearby so the county can get another emergency permit if the need arises, Nisich said.

“We always retain the right to protect the park and utility lines,” she said, “and if another emergency permit is needed, we would have the rocks on hand and available.”

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to move forward with an EIR, but Supervisor Steve Lavagnino was reluctant. He said the system in place (with rock revetment) seems to be working, but added that taxpayers couldn’t be put at risk of those fines from having an expired permit.

“At the end of the day, we’re all looking for the least expensive solution to the problem that would present us with the best park possible,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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