Dredge and fill operations in the name of “restoring beaches” must not be performed unless materials are suitable and clean for beaches, and do not cause smothering of near-shore sea life.
HTO has worked very hard to find alternative methods to dredging the Santa Barbara harbor, for example, the use of a clam shell digging and depositing the sand into a barge for depositing offshore. We also explored with the Army Corps of Engineers the concept of constructing a bypass seawall at the mouth of the Santa Barbara harbor, similar to Ventura harbor.
The Summerland Oil Mess
HTO got into another type of onshore pollution when the ocean at Summerland started oozing oil into the waves and onto the beach. We started getting calls from unhappy beach goers and ocean swimmers asking for help in cleaning up the Summerland Beach oil mess.
We offered help!
The State Lands Commission (SLC) "owns" all improperly abandoned oil wells in California, so when HTO heard there was a SLC Hearing scheduled in August 2015, we showed up to offer help. We hired Dudek Environmental Engineering to apply for Proposition 1 funding to cap the Becker Onshore Well. We did not get the grant, but it started our collaboration with SLC for cleaning up the Summerland mess.
In January 2017, we contracted for an aerial/dive survey of the Summerland oil field.
We hired Aqueos Subsea to conduct an aerial/dive survey of the offshore Summerland oil field. This study was generously funded by Manitou Fund, Minnesota. The goal of the survey was to have a priority list of sites ready for Hannah-Beth Jackson's SB44 "Legacy Oil Well" bill which was to provide $2 million a year for the proper capping and cleanup of abandoned oil wells along the CA coast.
We mounted significant public advocacy to keep the funds in place to cap Becker Well, and for the passing of SB44. We gathered hundreds of letters and postcards from our members.
Governor approved $700,000 to cap Becker Well!
On June 27, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed his approval of the $700,000 needed to cap the notorious Becker Onshore Well.
In July 2017 the CA State Lands Commission completed the Environmental Impact Report for the Becker and Legacy Wells Abandonment Project enabling the project to move forward.
August 24, 2017 - Aerial Survey Completed
The aerial survey of the offshore Summerland oil field conducted by Planch Aerosystems and paid for by Manitou Fund, Minnesota was finished on August 24, 2017 and provided powerful pictures of oil leaking from specific underwater sources. The study came just in time as SB 44 was going through the long, arduous path of house and senate subcommittees for approval. When SB 44 was stuck in the "Suspense File" process, where multi-million dollar bills are heavily scrutinized, the Planck study arrived to show that SB 44 funds would be specifically and well used.
...and then the governor signed SB44!
On October 13, 2017, SB44 passed! This legislation will provide $2 million per year to cap leaking oil wells off the coast of California for the next 7 years, starting in 2018. 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. 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.
February 26, 2018 - Becker Well is Capped!
Summerland Beach was a scene of great joy the morning of Monday, February 26, 2018, as a barge from Curtin Maritime, Long Beach, arrived to the coastline and positioned itself to lower the construction equipment to cap the infamous leaking Becker Well. Heal the Ocean was there to confer with State Lands Commission officials, who were watching the operation from Lookout Park, and to discuss future operations to follow on the other offshore/underwater wells.