Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Supes allocate oil royalties


Millions of dollars in royalties from offshore oil and gas companies will be spent over the next four years on improvements at several coastal sites throughout Santa Barbara County.
But to the dismay of two members of the Board of Supervisors, none of that money, for the time being, will be used to acquire property on the Gaviota Coast.

At the board’s weekly meeting Tuesday, the supervisors narrowly approved a list of “tier 1” projects that will receive nearly $3.5 million over the next four years as part of the federal government’s Coastal Impact Assistance Program.
The list includes nine different projects that vary from improvements at Jalama Beach and conducting an engineering study at Point Sal, to improving Goleta Beach access and recreation.
The “tier 2” list also includes nine projects, one of which is Gaviota Coast acquisitions.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal each said they felt Gaviota should be bumped onto the tier 1 list, but were outvoted 3-2.
“We have consistently talked about protecting that most incredibly pristine, ecologically, biologically sensitive area and here’s our opportunity to put some money behind what we’ve been talking about,” Wolf said. “That’s what this funding is for as I look at it.”
But the remainder of the board, even Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose district includes the Gaviota Coast, didn’t see it that way.
“I should support this motion,” Firestone said. “This is a windfall for the Third District. However, it eliminates some very carefully conceived projects.”
Some of the projects that would have fallen on the chopping block if Gaviota acquisitions had made the tier 1 list were a $464,827 engineering study at Point Sal, beach access improvements at Santa Claus Lane and an effort to establish a business target for pollutant reduction.
According to the California State Parks Web site, the access road to Point Sal was washed out in the late ‘90s and has been left mostly inaccessible to the public since.
“Are we really going to take out water quality and Point Sal access…?” Firestone asked. “Despite the windfall, I just don’t think I can support this.”
Wolf said she didn’t think Point Sal “rises to the level of where this money should be going.”
Wolf requested Gaviota acquisitions receive $2 million of the total pot of money, leaving the remainder for Goleta Beach, Jalama Beach and Santa Ynez River restoration.
That left only $350,000 going to North County with the Jalama Beach proposals – a possibility that didn’t sit well with Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray, who noted South County would be getting millions more.
But Wolf said issues with Gaviota transcend North, South barriers.
“It’s not a North, South issue,” she said. “Gaviota’s not my district.
“All of these projects I would submit are valid projects, but it’s also our responsibility to try and spend that money in the best way that we can.”
According to a board agenda letter, any tier 2 item can be moved onto the tier 1 list at a later date, or if a tier 1 project does not come to fruition.
The board did instruct its staff to study potential acquisition sites on the Gaviota Coast and bring them back for a formal discussion at a later date.
A complete list of the projects is available on the board’s Feb. 26 agenda, which is available at

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