Goleta Beach Solution Sought

Goleta Beach Solution Sought

By Friends of Goleta Beach Park on Apr 29, 2016 at 07:51 PM
Goleta Beach Solution Sought

Erosion protections added to park this year are to be removed by Memorial Day weekend under the emergency permits that allowed them

The Santa Barbara County Park Commission expressed its frustration Thursday over the county’s inability to establish a permanent solution to the extensive erosion Goleta Beach Park has been subjected to in recent years.

At its first meeting since December, the commission heard an overview of both the regulatory and on-site back-and-forth battles to protect the park from wave and storm erosion.

The source of the commissioners’ frustration is the required removal of recent reinforcements to a rock revetment and sand berm under the emergency permits that allowed them to be added in the first place.

In 2005, a rock revetment was installed at the beach through an original emergency permit issued by theCalifornia Coastal Commission. That permit’s eventual expiration set off a long, county-level fight to continue battling the erosion.

The county was asked to study alternatives to the revetment before sending a new proposal to the Coastal Commission, but it ultimately settled on the revetment as the only viable option and submitted its application to keep it in April 2014.

The environmental impact report it sent along with the application found that 60 percent of the park would eventually be lost without the rocks, which it cited as the park’s last line of defense against the pounding of the waves.

The Coastal Commission ultimately approved a conditional permit for repairing and maintaining the revetment last May, which it issued in December.

Goleta Beach Solution Sought

Little remains of a sand berm that was constructed earlier this year at Goleta Beach Park to help protect against large waves and high tides. 
(Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The 20-year permit’s conditions include a maintenance plan to keep the rocks covered in sand, a monitoring system for any potential environmental impacts, and a reassessment after 10 years.

Failure to abide by the conditions or adverse circumstances that emerge from monitoring and reassessment may shorten the life of the permit.

In anticipation of an intense El Niño this past winter, the Coastal Commission in November granted an emergency permit for a 2,400-foot sand berm, which was constructed in December and was significantly damaged by storms within a week.

The permit allows for the berm to be maintained through May, which is when it will have to be removed.

As part of another emergency permit, the revetment was repaired with new rocks in February.

In March and April, 10,000 square feet of the park’s lawns were restored after suffering substantial damage from a storm in early March.

The park’s temporary protections were completed earlier this month, said Paddy Langlands, the county’s deputy director of the parks division, who gave the report.

Those temporary protections, he said, must be removed by the end of May, and some of the new rocks and much of the sand are already gone.

A permanent permit must be issued by the Coastal Commission to keep the protections, and Langlands said he wasn’t sure why one wasn’t being pursued when pressed by the commissioners.

“We really need to come up with a permanent solution,” commission chairwoman Suzanne Perkins said. “We need somebody who’s in a position of authority who understands that this needs to be done, not just on a temporary basis, but on a permanent basis.

“I know that dealing with the Coastal Commission is arduous and frustrating at times, but we just can’t be doing temporary fixes. We need a permanent fix.”

The total cost of the park’s emergency El Niño preparations, including the sand berm and recent revetment repair, came out to $750,000, which is being paid for by a federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program grant the county had applied for, Langlands said.

A “couple hundred thousand dollars” of the grant is left over, he said.

“I’m glad (the county Board of Supervisors) did something that fast — it’s nice to see — but again, $750,000, it looks like it’s easy-come, easy-go,” Commissioner James Mosby said.

The commissioners balked at the minimal effort thus far to develop a permanent solution despite the “tight line” they said county staff have been walking and all the quick work the county has previously put in to fight the erosion.

Staff’s hands have been tied during the process, they acknowledged, but they expressed the urgency of getting the ball rolling.

“We need to make our voices heard to our supervisors, and I feel the supervisors and the county need to make their voice heard to the Coastal Commission,” Commissioner Judith Dale said.

The next step, said Langlands, is to work with state and federal agencies on a “long-term nourishment program,” which he said would probably focus on protecting the beach from erosion and would depend on what comes out of future discussions with the Coastal Commission.

The county-administered Goleta Beach Park sees more than 1 million visitors a year and features a restaurant, a 1,500-foot pier, and a water-sports-rental company. The park has amenities for fishing, barbecuing, volleyball, playing horseshoes and bicycling.

— Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Goleta Beach Solution Sought

Emergency permits allowed rocks to be placed along the shoreline at Goleta Beach Park in February, an emergency project to stem storm-caused erosion. The permits issued by the Coastal Commission required the erosion measures to be removed by the end of May. 
(Tom Bolton / Noozhawk file photo)