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Captain’s Log: Cleaning Up Our Beaches with Solution-Based Projects

The bottom of the trail at Summerland Beach is clean now but used to have heavy tar. Click to view larger
The bottom of the trail at Summerland Beach is clean now but used to have heavy tar. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

In March 2017, I wrote a Noozhawk column about Chris Goldblatt, founder of the Fish Reef Project, finding a leaking oil wellhead on Summerland Beach after winter storms had taken away much of the sand. He wisely brought in the local news teams and authorities were contacted, who found funds available for such work and subsequently recapped the old well.

That old wellhead had been putting some bad crude into the sands of the beach and leaching into nearshore waters for a very long time. This created unhealthy conditions for people visiting the beach and created toxic habitat for the critters and plants nearshore. It was a horrible environmental problem, and thank heavens it is cleaned up. Well, let’s thank the state, too, and hope that funds that are available for other wellhead capping projects are not diverted.

Now, better than a year later, Goldblatt, who lives nearby, reported that the beach is much cleaner and without the heavy tar deposits that had been there for so long. With cleaner beaches and water, lots of people again are enjoying the pretty beach area. This is a happy story, and one we can hope will replay each time a leaking old wellhead is found by a concerned citizen who takes the time to make it known.

This is the kind of solution-based project I believe in. To be honest, I’m tired of blaming humans for everything and then the solution being to shut down areas on land or sea or take rights and freedoms away from us. I feel fiercely about our freedoms and about access to land and seas for recreational purposes, including fishing or hunting for the family table. That Summerland Beach area is now a much-improved surf fishing spot.

What happened on that beach was a better way of doing things. Yes, of course, humans were responsible for the mess. But instead of a dark solution that cost us access or freedoms, we got a solution-based project that cleaned up an area, and we can all continue to enjoy it as we always have.

Solution-based projects are possible in a great many places to solve problems or just make things better. One perfect example is a proposal for a kelp-restoration reef in Goleta Bay. The proposed reef would be made of specially designed and ocean-friendly reef units that would provide homes for critters and holdfast areas for kelp. The project would bring back a luscious kelp forest that once was there and to protect Goleta Beach and aid with natural sand restoration and retention.

This ideal solution-based project has the support of the community and municipalities, has a lead agency and is just in need of funding for the permitting process with the state. I encourage anyone who wants to support a project with environmental and recreational benefits to fund this permitting process through the Fish Reef Project.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Summerland Beach is clean again and enjoyed by many beachgoers. Click to view larger
Summerland Beach is clean again and enjoyed by many beachgoers. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

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