Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 11:42 pm | Fair 69º

 
 
 
 

Local News

State Lands Commission Heads Back to Goleta to Clean Up Remnants of Oil History

Excavation work at beaches includes removing steel piles, well heads and casings, pipes and other remnants left behind from early 20th-century operations

Century-old relics of Goleta’s oil-production past are being excavated from local beaches by the State Lands Commission. Click to view larger
Century-old relics of Goleta’s oil-production past are being excavated from local beaches by the State Lands Commission.  (Genelle Ives photo)

Walking along Goleta’s beaches yields more than just sand, rocks and driftwood.

Often peeking out from the ground are the bases of pier supports, metal beams and rotted wood bits. 

The man-made scraps are relics of the area’s booming oil-production past, when piers and derricks extended off the shore, and regulations and oversight were yet to be developed.

The remnants along the now-environmentally-conscious city’s beaches are still being dug up, and the formal effort to remove them continues with excavation work this week by the State Lands Commission.

Goleta’s oil- and gas-production boom came in the early 20th century, and when the companies behind it packed up and departed, they left much of their infrastructure without much clean-up or disposal.

According to Goleta planning manager Anne Wells, what’s being pulled up by State Lands Commission crews are mostly metal and wood and are often sharp, including the metal beams that supported the piers, well heads and casings, steel piles, bars and pipes.

Their staging area has been by Haskell’s Beach in far-west Goleta by the Bacara Resort & Spa. The commission does this kind of hazardous materials clean-up along the California coast, and Wells said the SLC has been conducting it in Goleta most years for the past decade.

“We just happen to have a lot of hazards off the Goleta shoreline,” she said.

Crews methodically remove the dangerous pieces one by one.

Crews at Haskell’s Beach collect steel piles, well casings, pipes and other remnants of Goleta’s oil-production past. Click to view larger
Crews at Haskell’s Beach collect steel piles, well casings, pipes and other remnants of Goleta’s oil-production past.  (Genelle Ives photo)

“It’s a pretty unique operation because they have to be able to adjust to anything” they find, Wells said.

The combination of favorable tides, available funding and storms that exposed more remnants made now the ideal time to take up the work again, she added.

The Santa Barbara Channel is home to many abandoned oil wells from the early 20th century that have the potential to leak. The so-called Becker Well has been one of the worst offenders in Summerland, and petroleum odors and oil washing up on the beach have forced the beach’s closure at times.

Though a bill introduced last year by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) seeking to cap these wells was vetoed, a similar one by former Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) succeeded.

The law increases idle oil and gas well fees and blanket indemnity bonds to discourage well operators from maintaining unused wells.

Nowadays, Goleta’s viable oil- and gas-production infrastructure consists of Platform Holly 2 miles off the coast, which extracts the product, and the Ellwood Onshore Facility, which processes it.

Both are operated by Venoco Inc., and have found themselves the target of criticism from City Hall and environmentally-minded residents eager to shut them down for good.​

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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.

Goleta was a lucrative and unregulated hub of oil and gas production in the early 20th century, including the Ellwood Offshore Piers. Click to view larger
Goleta was a lucrative and unregulated hub of oil and gas production in the early 20th century, including the Ellwood Offshore Piers.  (City of Goleta photo)

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >