The City of Goleta announced Thursday that, in partnership with the State Lands Commission, it has removed the last two oil piers and caisson structures in the state located off Haskell’s Beach.
The “milestone decommissioning project” — which began last August — restores full coastal access and eliminates public safety and environmental threats.
The removal of the structures also marks the end of oil production in the Ellwood Oil Field, where oil production began in 1929 and continued through the 1990s.
“At one time, the shoreline was marked by 13 piers as well as a welter of oil storage and processing facilities immediately onshore,” a press release from the City of Goleta and the State Lands Commission said. “After Venoco filed for bankruptcy in 2017, the South Ellwood leases reverted to the State and the Commission embarked on the decommissioning project. The deteriorating piers and caissons represented a physical coastal obstruction, a potential public safety hazard, and a potential environmental hazard because of the presence of hydrocarbon-impacted soil and fill within the pier caissons.”
Sheri Pemberton, public information officer for the State Lands Commission, said the project was a “huge undertaking” that took six months to complete as the hydrocarbon soil in the caissons had to be removed and excavated before the caissons could be dismantled, and finally the piers could be dismantled and removed.
“It’s transformational for the area,” Pemberton told Noozhawk. “This fully restores the beach area to what it was before all of this development.”
She said the removal of the oil piers also restores public access that was impeded by the large structures.
Pemberton added that the State Lands Commission is still actively working on decommissioning Platform Holly — along with several other offshore oil and gas production facilities in the Santa Barbara Channel — although it will take awhile to complete.
“This is a significant accomplishment,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said. “Indeed, old oil and gas infrastructure, piers and wells are leaving our coastal waters for good. The State Lands Commission partnership with the City of Goleta was key to this restoration effort. Our community and the environment are safer because of these decommissioning efforts and for this, we can be proud.”