Collaborative Victories



Governor Jerry Brown has responded to the amazing outpouring of support from residents of Summerland, Santa Barbara, and across California as well as an army of Heal the Ocean supporters in favor of SB44 (Jackson) by signing the bill into law!

This legislation will provide $2 million per year to cap leaking oil wells off the coast of California for 7 years, starting in 2018. The State Lands Commission completed their Environmental Impact Report for the capping of the Summerland wells in July 2017. Heal the Ocean "dogged" this legislation through every single House and Senate committee, calling for HTO members to write letters and cards every single step of the way. You all came through! 

We are told that the aerial survey commissioned by HTO and completed by Aqueos Subsea and Planck Aerosystems just in time for a critical vote, had much to do with SB44 getting to the Governor's desk. The aerial survey pinpointed definite oil-capping targets, and took away doubt and guessing. The Planck Aerosystems aerial survey will now be followed by a dive survey by Aqueos Subsea - all of this possible because of generous funding from Manitou Fund, Minnesota, the family foundation of Summerland resident Nora McNeely Hurley.

Assembly Bill No. 885

HTO was instrumental in getting AB 885- septic system regulations for California – off the shelf and into action by joining with Heal the Bay in filing a “friendly” lawsuit vs. the State Water Resources Control Board – to formulate regulations under the law. HTO traveled to Sacromento for over a year, joining with EHS directors from around the state to work on language for this law, and mediating between factions that might have erupted into a fight and had the the thing on the shelf again.

As written AB 885 made provisions for the formation of Local Area Management Plans (LAMPs) for regulating septic systems within individual counties. HTO took a seat pm the SBN County Environmental Health Services steering committee which worked over a year to formulate the provisions of the LAMP (before the LAMP was ratified, HTO met with the Regional Board on a number of occasions to toughen up the language).

Santa Barbara County Local Agency Management Program

After years of effort, Heal the Ocean succeeded in helping gain approval to septic system regulations for the County of Santa Barbara, establishing an important tool for regulators to clean up faulty, polluting septic systems.

The new regulations, set forth in the County's "Local Agency Management Program" (LAMP), establish requirements for the operation and installation of new and existing septic systems, conditions for upgrade to supplemental treatment, and a new program to address groundwater pollution from faulty systems. The newly adopted program had its birth under Assembly Bill 885, drafted by then-Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson in 1999.

Heal the Ocean participated in the process of developing these regulations for over a year and provided input at a key stage, which led to the adoption of one of the first programs in the state tailored to address groundwater pollution specifically from septic systems.

You can read the entire text of the regulations through our website.

Key Milestones

  • The California Water Quality Control Policy for Siting, Design, Operation and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS Policy) goes into effect in May 2013 and starts the clock on a 2016 deadline for all counties in California to adopt their own "Local Agency Management Program," or else default to the policy's more restrictive Tier 1 standards.

    Please visit our OWTS Policy page to learn more about our role in winning approval of these regulations.

  • Santa Barbara County staff initiates a stakeholder process consisting of professional engineers, septic pumpers, the real estate community, and other interested individuals, to develop the County's own Local Agency Management Program.

    Heal the Ocean participates in this process with the other stakeholders and staff for over a year to develop the new regulations.

  • In anticipation of a August 1, 2014 Central Coast Regional Water Board hearing on the County’s LAMP, Heal the Ocean submits comments outlining our outstanding concerns with the near-finished LAMP. We specifically identify the absence of specific policies aimed at addressing existing, polluting septic systems.

    In response to our input, the members of the Regional Water Board direct staff to develop an approach on how best to proceed in protecting groundwater resources from septic systems.

  • The Regional Water Board sends a letter to the County of Santa Barbara advising that the Local Agency Management Program should include policies to address septic systems in "problematic areas" due to high septic failure rates and groundwater pollution from septic systems.

  • County staff, the Regional Water Board, Heal the Ocean, and the other Local Agency Management Program Advisory Committee members hold a meeting that establishes a framework to give the County authority to implement appropriate management policies in areas where the Regional Water Board designates a groundwater basin as impaired due to pollution from septic systems.

    This new language is included in Section V of the Local Agency Management Program in the form of an "Advanced Groundwater Protection Management Program."

  • On November 20, 2015, after years of effort, Heal the Ocean succeeds in helping win the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of Santa Barbara County’s plan to regulate septic systems in its jurisdiction.

    In approving the LAMP, the Regional Water Board's Resolution No. R3-2015-0037 includes specific language expressing the Board's intent "develop and implement a process to designate groundwater bodies as impaired or significantly degraded."

Thank you to all of the individuals that helped make Heal the Ocean's successful 15-year drive on behalf of septic system regulations in the County possible. From its origins with Assembly Bill 885 to the now adopted Local Agency Management Program, this is a significant step forward for our coastline.

Santa Barbara Stormwater Permits

Heal the Ocean has successfully fought for tougher provisions in stormwater permits in areas across Santa Barbara County to better protect the health and safety of ocean swimmers and surfers from polluted urban runoff.

You can explore the entire library of our advocacy on Storm Water programs in the the Santa Barbara region in our Research section, or view a few of our most notable efforts:

Comments to the County of Santa Barbara on its draft Storm Water Management Program

Comments to the City of Santa Barbara on its draft Storm Water Management Plan

Comments on the City of Carpinteria's draft Storm Water Management Plan

Comments to the City of Santa Maria on its draft Storm Water Management Plan

Comments on the City of Goleta's draft Storm Water Management Plan

South Coast Recycled Water Development Plan

Heal the Ocean successfully brought together water and wastewater managers from across the Santa Barbara County South Coast to complete this $100k year-long project, which investigated potential projects to increase recycled water use in the region.

As a part of our "Waste(d)water" campaign to reduce discharges of wastewater to the ocean through the increased beneficial use of recycled water, Heal the Ocean helped organize this project with water and wastewater managers in the region through the Integrated Regional Water Management process. The plan covers the entire Santa Barbara County south coast, from Goleta to Carpinteria, and identifies additional recycled water customers, the financial costs to treat and deliver tertiary recycled water, and the benefits and barriers to additional recycled water use.

Download and read the study to learn more.