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Refugio State Beach Will Reopen Next Friday After Oil-Spill Cleanup

Refugio State Beach will reopen to the public next Friday — about two months to the day since the popular campground was closed when a ruptured pipeline coated the coastline with crude oil on May 19.

Not all of the park will be ready, however, according to California State Parks Superintendent Eric Hjelstrom, who made the determination Thursday.

Several pocket beaches between Refugio and El Capitan state parks in southern Santa Barbara County — notably Venedito and Las Flores — will remain closed while hazardous material teams clean the beaches, and the area just north of Refugio, where the oil entered the ocean, will also stay closed, he said.

The main visitor area featuring the campgrounds will reopen at noon next Friday.

“California State Parks and members of the Unified Command completed a site assessment of the state beach and deemed it safe for the public,” the Refugio Joint Information Center said in a statement Thursday. “All recreational activities can resume including swimming, camping and fishing.

“Non-state park areas to the (east/south) of Refugio State Beach will remain closed as cleanup work will continue, but the closures will not affect beachgoers or campers. Due to cleanup operations in those areas, the public is asked to avoid closed areas.”

This week’s announcement comes after officials repeatedly postponed reopening Refugio, ground zero for the leak that sent up to 101,000 gallons of crude oil onto the coastline and into the ocean.

El Capitan State Beach opened back up to the public June 26.

The initial clean-up was nearly complete this week, according to the Unified Command, which is in charge of the response for the spill off the Gaviota Coast and includes Plains All American Pipeline, the oil company responsible.

About 96 percent of the affected shoreline and beaches have met the end-point cleanup goals for the initial stage, said Alexia Retallack, an incident command spokeswoman from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

While cleanup continues, officials warned drivers that the single-lane closure in the southbound direction of Highway 101 west of Refugio State Beach would continue through July 12, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

On Sunday, work crews will attempt to open up the lane as early as 2 p.m. to minimize impacts to traffic.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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