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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 10:04 am | Fair 55º


Tajiguas Landfill Resource Recovery Project Stalled After Technical Planning Error

Santa Barbara County’s $111 million resource-recovery project at the Tajiguas Landfill has hit a roadblock after the county discovered a technical planning error in its documents.

Earlier this year, county Public Works staff realized they had used an incorrect boundary for the coastal zone, the carefully protected and well-regulated strip of land along the coast.

Development projects in the area are subject to extra scrutiny and requirements, and the mistake has stalled the financing process.

“Staff and project partners are working diligently to move the project forward,” county spokeswoman Gina DePinto said in a statement. “The team is working on several options seeking the most expedient and appropriate course that will bring the project into successful completion.”

A Public Works memorandum from Feb. 2 obtained by the Gaviota Coast Conservancy noted the discrepancy was discovered at the end of January, and that the state boundary is 300 to 400 feet further north than the line the county used.

As state pollution standards tighten, the Resource Recovery Project is intended to divert more incoming waste from the landfill, lengthening Tajiguas’ currently nine-year lifespan along the way.

The project will have two facilities: One will sort recyclables and organic waste from all trash arriving at the landfill, and the other will convert organic waste into compostable materials and biogas, the latter of which will be used to generate electricity.

Thirty percent of waste processed in the materials-recovery facility would continue into the organic-waste-digester facility, another 30 percent will emerge as recyclables, and the other 40 percent will end up in the landfill itself.

The county says the reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be the equivalent of taking 22,000 vehicles off the road every year.

The “state of the art” facilities are expected to extend Tajiguas’ lifespan by 12 years.

Officials say the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project is a key method of achieving county and state energy and climate standards, and uses the best available technology to meet local waste disposal needs when no other facility exists that can handle the waste load.

Last July, the county Board of Supervisors approved a contract with MSB Investors LLC to design, build and operate the facilities on the site of the landfill. Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang and Buellton are also contributing to the project.

The TRRP has been the subject of fierce opposition from many environmentalists who charge that it represents the continued industrialization of the Gaviota Coast.

Environmental groups also have raised concerns about the reliability of the anaerobic digestion technology and the prudence of publicly financing such an expensive project.

“A trash processing plant is a bad idea anywhere on the Gaviota Coast,” said Marc Chytilo, an environmental law attorney who represents the Gaviota Coast Conservancy.

“This is a biodiverse region of global significance, whose natural and cultural resources qualify it as suitable to be a National Seashore,” he said. “It should not house a garbage dump at all, much less be the location for a massive new industrial trash processing facility.”

Opponents have argued that pursuing better, more ambitious recycling programs years ago would have avoided the need to extend the facility’s lifespan.

After hearing of the planning error, Gaviota Coast Conservancy chairman Ed Easton asserted that “the TRRP is dead in the water.”

DePinto called the GCC’s assessment an “unfortunate misstatement.”

“In the next 45 days, we hope to have a preliminary analysis completed and be able to give a more comprehensive update that includes a new timeline for the project,” she said.

“County staff will evaluate options and then resume the bond offer (for financing). One of the paths forward being considered is moving a portion of the facility further inland on county property.”

Asked whether the county is confident the TRRP will move forward sooner or later, she said, “definitely.”

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.

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