Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project "Dead in the Water"

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Due to County Processing Error


(Santa Barbara, CA, April 24, 2017) Leaders at the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) disclosed today that the County of Santa Barbara Solid Waste Division’s Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) has been halted indefinitely, due to a major land use processing error committed by the County.

“The TRRP is dead in the water. That’s a good thing for ratepayers, the environment and the Gaviota Coast,” declared Ed Easton, the Chairman of Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s Land Use Committee. “The Conservancy supports the closure of Tajiguas Landfill as soon as possible.”

In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to close Tajiguas Landfill by 2015. Rather than adopting aggressive source reduction and better recycling programs and closing the landfill, County staff sought approval for a high-tech $120M trash processing plant on the Gaviota Coast. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the TRRP in July, 2016.

“At various times throughout this process, we asked whether specific elements of the Project were in the coastal zone and subject to permit, but the County just modified the project and we never got a complete answer. A trash processing plant is a bad idea anywhere on the Gaviota Coast. This is a biodiverse region of global significance, whose natural and cultural resources qualify it as suitable to be a National Seashore. It should not house a garbage dump at all, much less be the location for a massive new industrial trash processing facility,” explained GCC’s attorney, Marc Chytilo.

The Project proponents ignored the state-designated coastal zone boundary, relying instead on the County’s map, and discovered their error only after the EIR was complete, the project was approved, and the County was seeking $120M in public financing for the project.

“Gaviota Coast Conservancy has opposed trucking, processing, and dumping trash on the Gaviota Coast. It’s simply the wrong place for these industrial activities. We need to do better at reducing the amount of trash we generate, and to sort out valuable commodities, including organic waste. New State law requires communities to separate organic waste and prohibits dumping it in landfills. Organic food waste can easily be composted, using green waste to produce clean compost in large quantities that can help sequester carbon in soils and increase agricultural viability on the South Coast. The remaining trash residuals can be disposed in a new state-of-the-art landfill outside of Santa Maria, using the new electric trucks or highly efficient liquefied natural gas, like what is now being used in Ventura County. Tajiguas Landfill should be closed for good,” explained one of GCC’s founding Board members, Mike Lunsford.

The County asked the Coastal Commission to adjust the boundary, and was rejected when the Commission concluded that the County’s submittal “patently fails” to meet the legal requirements. The County has limited options, and as approved, the project is dead. 


Background on the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project:

The Gaviota Coast is recognized as a recreational resource of statewide importance and has natural and cultural resources that make the Gaviota Coast suitable for National Seashore designation. It is a globally significant biodiversity hot spot, home to 1400 different species. Its visual features and landscapes are stunning, leading to Caltrans’ 2016 designation of Highway 101 through the Gaviota Coast as a California Scenic Highway. Only a small fraction of the Gaviota Coast’s lands are permanent protected, however, so action is needed to accomplish permanent protection as the forces of development and industrialization grow ever-stronger.

The TRRP is a $120M trash processing project that the County of Santa Barbara’s Solid Waste Division has proposed to site at the Tajiguas Landfill on the Gaviota Coast. Originally the project was to be privately financed by the Project operators, Mustang Investments, but Mustang later asked the County to finance the project. The total projected project cost, with financing, is GaviotaCoastConservancy.org Dedicated to protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for present and future generations $200M. The TRRP would consolidate trash processing activities to the Gaviota Coast.

Gaviota Coast Conservancy opposes the TRRP because it is a very expensive high tech solution that extends trash processing on the Gaviota Coast for decades when less expensive, simpler and more flexible alternatives exist. In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to close the Tajiguas Landfill within 15 years, but staff instead sought to extend its life and perpetuate incompatible industrial activities on the Gaviota Coast.

The TRRP commits our community to increased trash rates (nearly 15% over next 2 years and 40% over next 10 years), and discourages the development of stand-alone, high quality composting facilities that are needed for local farms and to enable Carbon Farming, an important tool for sequestering carbon in the soil.

The TRRP would be unnecessary if:

  • the South Coast enhanced programs to more effectively “source-separate” waste;
  • compost were produced nearby (not in Santa Maria or Oxnard), to reduce the transport of organic wastes;
  • a more effective materials recovery facility were completed on the South Coast; and
  • the remaining residual is disposed at the new Las Flores Ranch Class III Landfill near Santa Maria using efficient, electric-powered or alternatively-fueled haul trucks.

The County staff was apparently unaware that the state coastal zone boundary differed from the boundary on County maps, and that the state boundary always controls. Significant parts of the TRRP are actually located inside the coastal zone. Prior approvals of the TRRP are now invalid. The County’s initial request to modify the coastal zone boundary was summarily rejected. The County now faces a daunting process to try to gain approval of the TRRP.

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Action Summary on Tajiguas stating that Tajiguas should be closed within 15 years, from this date:

August 3, 1999

 

COUNTY ADMINISTRATION BUILDING

BOARD HEARING ROOM

105 EAST ANAPAMU STREET, FOURTH FLOOR

SANTA BARBARA

 

A C T I O N  S U M M A R Y

(UNOFFICIAL)

ADMINISTRATIVE

 

8) HEARING - Consider recommendations regarding Refuse Disposal Strategies for the South Coast, as follows: (99-21,298) (FROM JULY 13, 1999) (EST. TIME: 1 HR.)

a) Consider the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies identified in the report;

b) Consider a 15-year Tajiguas Landfill expansion for purposes of environmental review;

c) Direct staff to develop another County Landfill site as a long-term disposal solution;

d) Remove CAC alternative (Compost, MRF, and transfer station) from CEQA project level consideration and terminate RFQ process for CAC proposal;

e) Direct staff to initiate independent process for development of a Material Recovery Facility (MRF)/Transfer Station as well as a Compost Facility;

f) Direct staff to proceed with all short-term options including a benchfill project and a minor fill project in the Coastal Zone at the Tajiguas Landfill site.

 

COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR’S RECOMMENDATION: APPROVE

Marshall/Rose:

a) Conducted public hearing and considered the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies.

b) Approved. Directed staff to modify the project description to reflect the goal that the Tajiguas Landfill be closed within 15 years or sooner.

c) Directed.

d) Approved.

e) Directed.

f) Directed.

Gray: No.




Letter from California Coastal Commission to SB County regarding the Coastal Zone boundary for Tajiguas:

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Letter from SB County acknowledging the error:
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February 2017 Memo from SB County:

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Tajiguas Landfill Site Plan

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Tajiguas Landfill Site Plan with TRRP and Anaerobic Digester

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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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