The single biggest threat to the Gaviota Coast today is the County’s trash processing plant proposed at the Tajiguas Landfill. The County approved a new project last year to extend its operation but relied on an incorrect boundary line for the coastal zone, and now must revise and reconsider the project. The project’s purpose was to increase the landfill’s life by 12 years, but with the delays, the landfill’s life may be extended 8 years or less. As time passes, the project’s benefits decrease while costs rise.
The Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) involves $120M of trash processing machines housed in two Costco-sized buildings on top of the Tajiguas Landfill. All solid waste from the South Coast (except Carpinteria), Solvang, Buellton and the Cuyama Valley will be trucked to the TRRP for processing. 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.
To overcome the coastal zone problem, the County is proposing to expand trash processing beyond the Tajiguas Landfill and onto the adjacent Baron Ranch. Baron Ranch was to serve as a buffer and habitat restoration area for the Tajiguas Landfill, not as an expansion zone. While the County’s vague proposal leaves many unanswered questions, the expansion onto Baron Ranch represents a significant threat to the Gaviota Coast.
In 2002, the Gaviota Coast was studied and found to be worthy of designation (but infeasible) as a National Seashore by the National Park Service due to its extraordinary natural and cultural resources. The NPS concluded that the local community was best suited to protect the Gaviota Coast. The TRRP is entirely incompatible with the National Seashore-worthy Gaviota Coast. The TRRP will substantially increase the amount of traffic on the Gaviota Coast, 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), and will extend operations at the Landfill for 20 more years. The County has pledged to close the landfill by 2015, but now proposes to extend operations until 2036.
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 first hearing on the revised project will be on August 30 (please rsvp here) at the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. Check back here for information on this hearing and how to help protect our precious Gaviota Coast. And tell your elected officials and candidates: Don’t Trash the Gaviota Coast!