Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 5:54 pm | Fair 72º


Michael Rattray: Goleta Beach Park Still Center of Universe, But Still Needs Your Help

The Santa Barbara County Parks Department this past winter finally had to protect the midsection of Goleta Beach Park, our most popular county beach and park, with rock revetment that has proven to be the most effective buffer for landward park assets.

Michael Rattray Click to view larger
Michael Rattray (Rattray family photo)

Goleta Beach Park has been armored with rock since the late 1950s and it has more than met the challenge against the ravages of major winter storms over the last 60 years. But the cost of this investment policy continues to trigger the ire of some as it challenges the expansion of “managed retreat” at Goleta Beach Park because of the threat of rising seas.

The California Coastal Commission wants managed retreat sooner rather than later at Goleta Beach. This means removal of parking lots and vehicle access, unearthing all utility lines and relocating them farther landward, and substantially shrinking the grass park footprint with fewer park picnic benches and tables over time.

So, after having spent millions of dollars protecting this recreational park, the Coastal Commission wants county taxpayers to spend millions more taking rocks out and live with a much smaller park?

Although there is evidence of sea-level rise in parts of the globe, scientific data collected by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys indicate the Santa Barbara Channel has risen little, based on measurements collected since the 1970s.

The NOAA Climate Program Office summarized its assessment of the future sea level of the California coast rise in a 2012 report (Parris et al, 2012). By 2100, the agency indicates, global mean sea level is estimated to rise anywhere between 8 inches and 6.6 feet. For comparison, the sea-level rise in the 20th century was ~7 inches.

But the midpark rocks were installed under emergency permits that soon expire. County staff has come up with a recommendation for the Board of Supervisors to approve a long-term plan for a coastal development permit application to be submitted to the Coastal Commission. Click here for a copy of the board letter along with all supporting documentation for public review.

In summary, county staff is recommending that the emergency rocks be permanently permitted for up to 10 years with monitoring and new conditions that could trigger new managed retreat.

One of the documents attached to the staff report is an engineering study of Goleta Beach Park sand accretion and erosion by Noble Consultants, an Irvine company retained by the county.

“The south Santa Barbara County shoreline will require significant increases in sediment supply to the coast to help in the recovery of the beaches within the regionally depleted littoral system,” the document states.

“Absent the beach nourishment input that historically occurred between 1994-2011, Goleta Beach should continue to remain narrow at best.”

The Pacific Coast beach erosion from the last two years of major El Niño storms has been described in a study by U.S. Geological Survey and UC Santa Barbara scientists as being 76 percent greater than the historical average.

In addition, Noble Consultants states that “the width of Goleta Beach is dependent upon the county’s beach nourishment program. This program, which is necessary to protect the Santa Barbara Airport and Goleta from flooding, is fully funded and authorized by all required permits. The present uncertainty in the future suggests that an adaptive management strategy may be the most appropriate path forward to address how best to maintain existing facilities and respond to future conditions as certainty becomes more focused.”

History has taught us that our beaches along the entire Santa Barbara coastal zone erode and accrete based on climate patterns that have existed since the beginning of time, and that wider beaches will come back.

Probably the best example of future sand accretion are the results of the 2016 Sherpa Fire followed by El Niño floods. Significant amounts of sediment that rushed down south-facing creeks of the Santa Ynez Mountains are producing more significant beaches along our coastline.

The most exciting solution has recently been introduced by the Fish Reef Project, a revolutionary sand accretion reef to supplement the natural sediment migration deposits and retention on beaches. Also called fish reef balls, more than 600,000 have been deployed in more than 70 countries, improving beach widths and marine and estuary life.

A recent Noozhawk column by Capt. David Bacon describes in more detail the benefits that can be achieved in the Goleta Bay. Click here to watch Fish Reef Project founder and CEO Chris Goldblatt discuss sand accretion reefs in the bay.

Friends of Goleta Beach Park fully support the county staff’s assessment in the aforementioned report to the Board of Supervisors. At the board’s Aug. 22 meeting, we will present the following steps that we believe will ensure a positive future for both our beach and park:

» That the emergency rock revetment in the midpark be incorporated into the existing 20-year permit

» That beach nourishment for the Goleta Slough supplement the beach width while there is tremendous sediment deposit clogging up the estuary (The county Flood Control District is planning on such in October.)

» Have the county research the science and engineering to permit through the Fish Reef Project the placement of sand accretion reef balls just seaward of the surf zone along the entire face of Goleta Beach Park to assist the natural widening and retention of a wider beach

» Support the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON), a California Joint Powers Authority, in supporting a pilot program to restore the historical Goleta Bay kelp beds to determine their impact on sediment transportation in this coastal zone

Friends of Goleta Beach Park and the Fish Reef Project look forward to continue educating the general public, our county and the Coastal Commission on the importance of a wider view of how to enhance Mother Nature in the Goleta Bay for the protection of the paradise afforded to all at Goleta Beach Park.

Your support and letters to the supervisors is most encouraged prior to the Aug. 22 hearing. Click here to sign a formal petition created through change.org.

— Michael Rattray represents Friends of Goleta Beach Park. The opinions expressed are his own.

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