GCC on Venoco Bankruptcy

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Gaviota Coast Conservancy statement on Venoco bankruptcy announcement

The announcement by Venoco that they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and returning their interests in their three offshore state leases back to the State of California is great news for the Gaviota Coast! Since their leases include Platform Holly, the Ellwood onshore processing facility, and wells drilled at the beach at Ellwood, this is also a welcome development to neighbors in the City of Goleta.

“This action by Venoco signals the end of oil production and processing from State waters on the Gaviota Coast,” stated Michael S. Brown, President of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy. The rupture of the All-American Pipeline at Refugio in May 2015 and its continued non-operation led to a shutdown of Venoco’s Platform Holly offshore of the Gaviota Coast and of Exxon’s Las Flores Canyon processing operations in the heart of the Gaviota Coast.

“After a century of oil operations on this precious part of the California coast, today’s actions will lead to removal of three dangerous and visually intrusive oil and gas production facilities, restoration of degraded habitats, expanded public access, protection of Chumash cultural resources, and expanded sustainable agricultural activities that have defined the rural character of Gaviota for over 150 years,” said Brown. “We applaud the decades-long work of the Environmental Defense Center, the Sierra Club, Get Oil Out and Citizens Planning Association to fight the expansion of oil production on the Gaviota Coast and offshore in the Santa Barbara Channel. Their steadfastness, and Venoco’s quitclaim, turns a new page in history of this part of California.”

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy has advocated for the elimination of industrial activities on the Gaviota Coast, including oil and gas development and processing, as well as solid waste management. The shutdown, removal, and remediation of Venoco’s onshore facilities opens new opportunities for public use of a portion of the Coast that has been off limits for more than half a century.

“Venoco’s Ellwood processing facility has posed an unacceptable risk to Goleta residents and visitors alike for decades,” commented Phil McKenna, former President of the Conservancy. “Now we have the prospect of creating a new gateway to the Gaviota Coast that could be an educational, recreational, and cultural resource for all.”

“While the termination of Venoco’s operations in state waters is an important and positive development, the federal Department of Interior has signaled it may seek to reopen the Santa Barbara Channel and other areas to new federal leasing for oil drilling. The Conservancy and our environmental colleagues will maintain our vigilance over the Gaviota Coast and forcefully oppose any such proposals,” explained Mr. Brown.

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is a 501c3 nonprofit founded in 1998, with a mission to enhance the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for present and future generations.

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Gaviota Floods

Massive Flooding at El Capitan Canyon leads to Evacuations for Sherpa Burn Area

In an urgent Message from the Office of Emergency Management: An Evacuation Warning has been issued for the greater Sherpa Fire Burn area by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department beginning 4 am Sunday. 

The Santa Barbara Independent covered the floods at El Capitan Canyon on January 20 that washed away five cabins and 15 cars, with more photos here in the story by Noozhawk. The LA Times has more photos, and the Santa Maria Times has video with rescue workers and gushing water. Here's more video from January 20 at El Capitan Canyon. People in the cabins and campground were rescued with a tracked vehicle, with tank-like treads.

In addition, the historic Orella adobes suffered extensive damage. Gaviota Coast Conservancy board member and descendant of the Presidio founder who built those homes, Guner Tautrim, shared his view from Orella Ranch on January 20, "Today was crazy!! We didn't experience the insane rain fall amounts or intensity but we sure suffered the effects of it. At my place we only measured 2" of rain total (all day) versus the 2" in an hour at Bobby's place. All that upslope rain on the fire-scarred terrain reeked havoc down here. El Cap is totally destroyed. Way way way worse then the fires. Carnage all up the canyon. And Corral Canyon - Las Floras (Exxon Mobil) got a major flushing as well. Sadly the historic Ortega adobes (my great-great-great-grandfather's house) got destroyed. A pile of debris. Venadito Canyon is pretty damaged as well, with lots of mud, blocked culverts and the like. To think more is coming is pretty scary."

Fellow Gaviota Coast resident Bobby Hazard reported on January 20, "Checking the County auto rain gauge at the top of the pass, we had 3 inches between 7 and 10pm, but 1.9 inches in one hour from 8-9. Amazing; it's never happened in my 40 years up here. The creek looks completely different in many places. As with many such things, there is a silver lining. Our springs are flowing after years of not and my neighbor's well has 30 feet more water in it than before. The creek that was choked with invasive growth is cleaned out and open to the sun. And Refugio Beach has lots of new sand."

From the SB County Office of Emergency Communications:

Following winter weather warnings from the National Weather Service for Santa Barbara County, an evacuation warning has been issued from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff for areas burned in the Sherpa Fire (June 2016) including El Capitan Canyon, El Capitan Ranch, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State Beach, Refugio Canyon, Canada Venadito Canyon, del Coral, and Las Flores Canyon (see enclosed map).   The warning is in place for Sunday, January 22 beginning at 4 a.m. 

An evacuation warning means there is a strong likelihood that there will be a risk to life and property, and residents in the warning area should take this time to prepare to leave quickly if given a mandatory evacuation order. Time should be taken to gather family members, pets, valuables, and important paperwork/documents. An individual or family should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. However, if anyone feels threatened, do not wait for an evacuation order – leave immediately. 

In addition, advisories issued today from the National Weather Service include a high wind warning in place through Monday, January 23, and a flash flood watch on Sunday, January 22 from the early morning until the afternoon for all areas of Santa Barbara County, not just the burn areas.

El Capitan and Refugio state parks are currently closed, as well as the northbound Hwy 101 off ramp at El Capitan.

The public is encouraged to avoid going out in the storm and to stay off the roads. As a precaution, do not walk through flood waters. It only takes six inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 911 for help. 

Do not drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade. Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide many hazards, such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in a matter of seconds. Twelve inches of water can float a car or small SUV and 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles. 

For updated information, visit www.countyofsb.org. Residents and visitors are strongly encouraged to sign up for “Aware and Prepare” alerts at www.awareandprepare.org.

The Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center has been activated as well as the Joint Information Center to provide county residents and visitors with updated information regarding flash flooding and debris flow hazards.

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Gaviota Coast declared Scenic Highway

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Gaviota Coast Conservancy played a major role 
Caltrans has officially designed the Gaviota Coast as a State Scenic Highway. Over the past year, Gaviota Coast Conservancy worked tirelessly with Caltrans, County staff and the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors to make this happen. As stated by the Director of Caltrans, "the scenic qualities of this well-deserved section of California's coast will be preserved, so that they may continue to be appreciated and enjoyed by all."
Gaviota Coast Conservancy, along with Supervisor Doreen Farr, have long pushed for this overdue designation. The new Scenic Highway will extend along a 21-mile stretch of Highway 101, from Goleta's western boundary to Highway 1 at Las Cruces, where it will connect with another scenic route on Highway 1 between Las Cruces and Lompoc. For more detail, here's an article on the Gaviota Coast Scenic Highway designation in the Lompoc Record
Your Gaviota Coast Conservancy board continues to work diligently to help preserve the Gaviota Coast. This is one more step in that pursuit. We are most proud and pleased to have taken a leading role in this project, and look forward to continuing our work in the coming year. There will be a formal dedication in the near future. We will keep you informed, when the date is set. 
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