Rock revetment best way to save park from erosion

Rock revetment best way to save park from erosion

By Friends of Goleta Beach Park on Jun 25, 2013 at 09:08 AM

Republished from

Rock revetment is only way to save park

Several truths about this long and exhausting effort to plan for the destruction of Goleta Beach Park as we know it should be emphasized for the members of the Board of Supervisors at its hearing to discuss this plan.

A rock revetment (not a sea wall) were placed in front of the restaurant, the foot of the pier, and the restroom at the pier in 1985 or '86. The conditions at that time were so serious that an emergency permit from the Coastal Commission was granted. There was a 6- to 13-foot drop in the sand level in front of these facilities in that year. The revetments that were placed were 6 to 13 feet high and are now buried in the sand. Those facilities would have been lost during the winter storms that year and in subsequent years if those revetments had not been placed. The revetments are still there 25 years later. This is the least expensive way to save the public facilities at Golta Beach, which serve 1.2 million visitors a year.

Santa Barbara County has the longest coastline with the least public access of any county of California (Santa Barbara County Recreation Elements, Capital County General Plan, 1980).

Finally, E.A. Keller of UCSB said on Jan. 14, 2004, "Of utmost importance of developing a plan for Goleta Beach County Park is 'a values clarification.' It is difficult to maximize for two things and as such we need to be clear whether we are trying to have the primary management goal to save the park or if the primary management goal is to save the beach."

Well, here the issue is joined. This is a false choice. The beach cannot be "saved." It must be artificially constructed and periodically replenished — forever.

We have learned from our engineers that 85,000 cubic yards of sand are missing from the littoral drift that passes Goleta Beach Park. That sand is trapped in Goleta Slough and its tributaries.

The park, of course, must be preserved because it is irreplaceable. The way to preserve the park is with a "hard" solution. Of the "hard" solutions that have been recommended, a rock revetment is the best solution because it has a significantly less probability of causing sand erosion than a sea wall. The ongoing maintenance of a revetment (our experience tells us) will cost a lot less than the millions of dollars necessary to move all of the existing structures, above and underground, away from the sea.

The cost to the recreational public of sacrificing the facilities at Goleta Beach for some vague "planned migration of the beach" is not a solution that can serve the public interest.

If, after all this time, there is still an argument about the minimal effect a rock revetment has on sandy beach erosion — as opposed to the use of a sea wall to protect the facilities at Goleta Beach — it is because some people have a greater interest in supporting a Coastal Commission preference to avoid any "armoring" of coastal land in California than in protecting Goleta Beach Park in Santa Barbara County.

The author is retired director of Santa Barbara County Parks Department.