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Officials Optimistic About Saving Goleta Beach Park

Despite Coastal Commission concerns, city leaders believe state panel will allow rock revetment

The fight over Goleta Beach rages on, but the recent turmoil does not faze Goleta City Councilman Jim Farr and Mayor Michael Bennett in their efforts to save the county park.

"You and I are prepared to go to the ends of the Earth," Farr said Tuesday at a committee meeting.

Bennett responded: "Whatever it takes, whatever it takes."

Members of the Goleta Beach Park Standing Committee met Tuesday at Goleta City Hall to weigh in on the California Coastal Commission's recent letter that poked holes in Santa Barbara County's environmental impact report on the future of the popular park.

The commission asked the county for more information and to answer several key questions about its plans to leave a rock revetment in place to help slow erosion of the park and green space.

The letter asked for several pieces of information, including two sets of detailed cross sections of the revetment that show the project footprint in relation to bordering properties.

The commission also asked for a description of the rock to be retained as well as reports that look at “wave modeling, geomorphic interpretation, wave run-up,” and a coastal flooding and erosion vulnerability assessment.

The committee includes interim City Manager Michelle Greene and Planning & Environmental Review Director Jennifer Carman.

The debate centers on the future of the park, the county's most popular beach destination.

Some environmentalists have called for the removal of the rocks to allow for the beach to return to its natural state. They would like the removal of 1,200 feet of rocks, some as large as 8 feet tall and 15 feet wide, buried under the sand, yanked from the beach.

Anne Wells, left, advance planning manager, and Ed de la Torre, Friends of Goleta Beach Park activist, talk about plans for Goleta Beach Park at a meeting Tuesday. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The rocks were installed as an emergency measure a decade ago to prevent the park from major storm damage. During large storm events, the high tide rushes up on the grass, and over the years has slowly eroded the size of the park, which is popular among families and children.

The EIR for the project says that about 2.6 acres, or about 60 percent of the park, would be eventually lost if the rock revetments are removed.

The rocks, however, are now unpermitted. Opponents of the rocks argue that the artificial barriers contribute to the loss of sand, and that over time, the beach will disappear.

The county Board of Supervisors in March voted to leave the rocks and sent a "no-project" alternative to the Coastal Commission.

The commission responded in June with questions. It's up to the county now to answer those questions.

Bennett and others at the meeting said they expect that the commission will ultimately back the county's plans. They cited a recent decision by the commission to allow revetments in other parts of California.

Farr said he expects everything to work out in the end for the supporters of the park.

"Goleta Beach Park is for the people of the Goleta Valley," Farr said. "It's the best opportunity for the people of the Goleta Valley to interact with the ocean. It's a prime point for us to experience nature and the ocean. It is what everyone in the Goleta Valley wants."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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