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Arthur Sylvester: ‘Goleta Beach 2.0’ a Pig in a Poke

The flawed plan does little to enhance the beach and nothing to protect the park

On July 6, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will meet to discuss approval of “Goleta Beach 2.0,” a plan to “save” Goleta Beach. Note that “park” is not in the title.

According to the vocal activists who stridently support the plan — that is, the Environmental Defense Center and the Surfrider Foundation — the plan would “create” an additional acre of beach. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But those same activists neglect to tell you that the plan would eliminate three more acres of a park that has already been allowed to erode to a fraction of the size it was in 1980.

The EDC and Surfrider activists insist that the rock revetment be removed from the central part of the park. They allege that it causes erosion of the beach and loss of sand downstream. Bah! An eight-year study by one of the world’s leading coastal erosion experts, professor Gary Griggs at UC Santa Cruz, concluded that erosion of beach sand does not occur in front of armoring facilities such as rock revetments and walls.

The reality is that the Goleta Beach revetment never sees beach waves except during the El Niño storms that would otherwise tear away more of Goleta Beach Park if the revetment were not there. The reality is that the revetment, which has been buried for 98 percent of its lifetime, has protected the park from further erosion in past major storms without harm to the beach whatsoever.

The activists assert that the presence of the rock revetment decreases sand flow downstream to Santa Barbara beaches. Wrong again! Studies by professor Griggs’ students clearly show that the amount of sand flowing along the coast into the Santa Barbara Harbor has been constant for at least the past 30 years.

The EDC and Surfrider activists want a sewer line moved “all the way back to Highway 217” without mentioning that three utility lines — water, gas and sewage — go through the park and would have to be moved at a cost of at least $750,000 each. Who would pay that $2.25 million cost? EDC and Surfriders? I doubt it.

“Goleta Beach 2.0” contains a lot of “pie in the sky” about kayaks, boat rentals, shuttle trams, nature information centers, etc. It only suggests that grants may be available to pay for such Disneyland playthings. The plan also says that parking at the beach would decrease substantially, requiring park and beach users and all their ice chests and baby carriages to be shuttled in from parking lots as distant as downtown Goleta.

Because of heavy lobbying and groundless arguments by the EDC and the Surfrider Foundation activists, the California Coastal Commission shot down a perfectly good plan that would have enhanced both the beach and the park.

It might be too late to resurrect that plan, which might have been termed “Goleta Beach Park 1.0,” but it’s not too late to urge your county supervisor to reject “Goleta Beach 2.0” as a flawed plan that does little to enhance the beach and nothing to protect the park.

— Arthur Sylvester is a professor of geological sciences in the Department of Earth Science at UCSB.

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