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Santa Barbara County Exploring Permit Options to Protect Goleta Beach Park

Coastal Commission application to include plans to prevent erosion at popular park, save long-vulnerable infrastructure

Beachgoers visit Goleta Beach Park, which was hit hard by winter storms. Click to view larger
Beachgoers visit Goleta Beach Park, which was hit hard by winter storms. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

After years of work and millions of dollars spent on protective repairs, Santa Barbara County is still looking for a long-term solution to protect Goleta Beach Park.

At a special meeting in Goleta earlier this month, Santa Barbara County Park Commission heard an update on the status of the 29-acre park following the impacts from last winter’s erosion.

In response to January and February’s major storms, the California Coastal Commission approved three emergency permits for county staff to install rock revetments along 948 feet of the park to protect facilities and infrastructure from high tides and waves. County staff also repaired the storm-damaged base of the Goleta Pier.

The emergency rock revetment was installed to help prevent damage and flooding to park infrastructure, including the Goleta Sanitary District’s sewer, electrical and water lines, the Beachside Bar-Café, recreational facilities, two restrooms and the parking lot.

The total cost, including construction and monitoring, comes with a $950,000 price tag.

“There’s a lot of county investment in the park,” said Dan Gira of Amec Foster Wheeler, the project management and engineering company hired to perform emergency construction at the beach.

“It’s one of the busiest parks in Santa Barbara County.”

The county has spent $2 million in emergency protective measures since 2015, and $5 million in recent park improvements, such as a new bus stop, rerouting the nearby bike path, renovating the restrooms and upgrading the picnic areas. Construction continues on the park’s new bridge crossing from Sandspit Road.

County staff is expected to give recommendations and options to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 22. After guidance from the supervisors, staff will submit a permit application to the Coastal Commission on Sept. 30.

Gira highlighted possible permit options, including removing coastal access parking spaces, clearing away restrooms, benches and picnic areas.

Santa Barbara County wants a long-term solution for chronic erosion issues at its popular Goleta Beach Park. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County wants a long-term solution for chronic erosion issues at its popular Goleta Beach Park. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

He said the option holds a “substantial” amount to the county budget.

“We have to consider the costs,” Gira said. “The parks department is not a wealthy agency, and Goleta Beach is taking a tremendous amount of park funds.”

Another proposal is to remove the existing 873-foot long emergency revetment or moving the rocks offsite.

County staff explored multiple protection measures that were found to be ineffective or infeasible. The costly sand berms eroded rapidly, and the geotextile cobble was destroyed within a year of installation in 2016, Gira said.

For future projects, the county must work with state and federal regulatory agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California State Lands Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

During public comment at the July 13 meeting, some community members expressed concern about the challenge of rising sea level.

Computer models project the ocean to rise up to 2 feet by 2050 and up to 5½ feet by 2100, although projections vary, according to Gira’s presentation.

Major storm events occurring between 2014 and 2017 washed away more than 100,000 cubic yards of sand from the beach, eroding approximately 1.2 acres of park land and damaging park facilities.

The five-year drought and El Niño storms are factors that decreased the average beach width in 2016, Gira said. Last year, the storms eroded about 30,000 cubic yards of sand and 30,000 square feet of land, he added.

The average width of the beach was 200 feet in 2012, compared to the average of 50 feet in 2016.

Low-level sand supply is occurring across Central and Southern California, Gira said.

He noted that during the 2015-2016 El Niño, winter beach erosion on the Pacific Coast was 76 percent above normal, and that most beaches in California eroded beyond historical extremes, according to research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, UC Santa Barbara scientists and six other institutions.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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