(Bixby Ranch grading, Gaviota Coast aerial photos by Mike Lunsford)
On Thursday November 9, 2017, the Coastal Commission (CCC) voted unanimously to adopt a Cease and Desist Order finding extensive land use violations at the Bixby Ranch and a companion Restoration Order that mandated habitat restoration to compensate for the impacts of the violations, imposition of fines, and the donation of a 36 acre parcel to the County to expand the Jalama County Park. The Orders were negotiated between Commission staff and the manager of Bixby Ranch.Read more
The County is trying to approve another expansion of the Tajiguas Landfill onto Baron Ranch on the Gaviota Coast. Gaviota Coast Conservancy has vowed to oppose this project to protect the Gaviota Coast from 20 more years (!) of industrial activity at the Tajiguas Landfill. The $110M Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (or TRRP) includes a “dirty materials recovery facility” (or dirty MRF) to separate recyclables from trash and an anaerobic digester facility (ADF) to process organic wastes and extract methane that is burned to generate electricity.
Earlier this year, China banned the acceptance of contaminated recycled materials, closing the only market for the recovered recyclable materials from the dirty MRF, and rendering one $50M part of the project useless.
Far better is to enhance our source separation programs so more recyclables go into the blue bins, where they stay clean and are actually recycled. We don’t need the dirty MRF.
Carbon farming has emerged as a way to put carbon back into the soil, using high-quality compost. We don’t need the $60M anaerobic digester; we need more composting, which coincidentally can be done at a fraction of the cost. We can use education and programs to keep food scraps clean and put them in with the green yard waste bins, allowing this valuable resource to be used to make compost.
The TRRP is so expensive it has contributed to rate increases over 17% this year in Goleta and unincorporated Santa Barbara County, with comparable annual increases projected for at least the next 2-3 years, and probably longer. Rates will rise higher once the additional costs of the County’s coastal zone blunder are known. The $110M price tag is expected to rise to approximately $150M, triggering another steep rate increase for South Coast residents. The Tajiguas Landfill is nearly full, and it is time to find a better solution. The alternative begins at home with enhanced source separation, which can achieve better results at less expense than the TRRP.
In late October, a group of five solid waste experts active in the State sent a letter to the Santa Barbara City Council with their collective opinion that the TRRP was not appropriate and urging the participating jurisdictions to consider and develop alternatives.
After this year’s spring rains, a population of Threatened California red-legged frogs was re-discovered at the Tajiguas Landfill. The TRRP introduces night lighting to the site for the first time (frogs are attracted to the light) and the TRRP revisions expand the areas of nighttime vehicle operations, including over the frogs’ dispersal corridors. The TRRP revisions expand the landfill operations onto Baron Ranch and into federally designated Critical Habitat for the red-legged frog. As proposed, the revised TRRP will lead to the unnecessary death of red-legged frogs on the Gaviota Coast.
GCC opposes the TRRP as an unnecessary expansion of the Tajiguas Landfill onto Baron Ranch and extension of its life by another 20 years after the Supervisors pledged to close it by 2015. The myriad environmental impacts and zoning issues simply underscore the conclusion that the Tajiguas Landfill does not belong on the Gaviota Coast.
Stay tuned for more information!
Santa Barbara County is in a bind with the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP). They discovered that the coastal zone map they had been using was the wrong one, and that the existing Tajiguas Landfill is actually already infringing on the coastal zone, and even worse, that the planned new anaerobic digester and sorting facility (to be housed in two large Costco-sized buildings) are partly sited in the zone and now the digester needs to be relocated, adding further expense to an already astronomically expensive project. They have an optimistic view of the situation on Edhat.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy legal counsel Marc Chytilo submitted an OpEd on this Tajiguas issue, also to Edhat. "The Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) involves $120M of trash processing machines housed in two Costco-sized buildings, one on top of the Tajiguas Landfill and the other on Baron Ranch. Interest on proposed County bonds totals at least $80M, for a total project cost of at least $200M. Residential trash rates are estimated to increase by 50% over the next decade to pay for the TRRP and the coastal zone blunder; some estimate the rate increases will be much higher. The Goleta City Council will hold a hearing on September 5 to hear from the public whether to raise trash rates by over 17%, in large part to pay for the TRRP. Most significantly, the TRRP will squander the potential to reduce greenhouse gases through carbon farming (a practice referenced in the Paris Climate Agreement that sequesters atmospheric carbon in the soil)."
"State law will effectively ban disposal of organic waste to landfills in a few years. This organic waste (kitchen and food scraps from grocery stores, schools, hotels and restaurants) is a highly valuable input for the creation of high-quality compost that can be used in “carbon farming” to sequester carbon into the soil and increase local agricultural productivity. The TRRP would instead process the organic waste in an anaerobic digester, extracting a trivial portion of the carbon as methane that would be burned to generate electricity and the carbon returned to the atmosphere."
"The TRRP’s 'digestate' cannot be made into high-quality compost and is unsuitable for use on food crops. Carbon farming yields years of carbon sequestration benefits, versus a one-time minor reduction in the type of carbon emitted to the atmosphere. In proposing the TRRP, the County rejected viable alternatives that would have less cost, fewer impacts, and move towards Zero Waste goals that many other local governments have adopted throughout the Country. We can do better!"
The Next hearing on the revised project will be on September 5 at the Goleta city Council, where rate increases of 17.76% are needed to fund the TRRP. Please attend the Hearing if you can, email and speak out for Gaviota Coast and against the expanded industrialization of this biodiversity hotspot.