Thursday, July 3, 2008

Some 4th of July events cancelled, others go on


With the Gap Fire raging in the hills above Goleta, authorities pulled the plug on a fireworks show planned for Girsh Park on Friday, as well as the annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration at Rancho La Patera & Stow House.
Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett announced the news during a press conference Thursday afternoon, citing concerns about flames burning within a mile of the city limits.
However, Santa Barbara city officials declared they plan to go forward with the annual fireworks show on West Beach after talking it over with fire, police and waterfront authorities.

“As the event approaches, emergency conditions will continue to be reassessed to ensure public safety,” according to a city news release. “If fire conditions change significantly, media agencies will be notified immediately of an event cancellation.”
The show, being produced by Pyro Spectaculars, begins at 9:30 p.m. and will last approximately 22 minutes.
And while many families and visitors may be relieved that it appears the event will continue unabated, others expressed concern about a multitude of impacts they believe need to be addressed.
Hillary Hauser, executive director of Heal the Ocean, said fireworks have a negative effect on animals, veterans and the ocean environment.
“Heal the Ocean may seem like the Grinch, but it is time that this practice be reexamined for many different reasons,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Animal shelters are often flooded with creatures scared from their homes by the loud explosions, she argued. Veterans suffering from shell shock also have a hard time dealing with the heavy booms.
Hauser said she contacted the nonprofit organization’s lawyer, Marco Gonzalez, who also noted that debris from the fireworks, launched from West Beach over the harbor, could harm marine life.
In the least, Gonzalez argued in a message sent to city and water officials, the city should obtain a permit in keeping with the Clean Water Act.
“While not a formal 60-day notice of intent to sue under … the Clean Water Act, this correspondence is nonetheless intended to place the city and Pyro Spectaculars on notice that the pattern and practice of annual discharges of unspent fireworks and spent fireworks debris and chemicals to waters without a permit will not be tolerated, and could result in significant financial liability to both parties,” he wrote.
John Bridley, the city’s waterfront director, said he has no knowledge of requirements for a permit in order to hold the annual fireworks show.
“The city of Santa Barbara has been undertaking the annual fireworks Fourth of July show for at least 15 to 20 years and I’m unaware of any regulatory agency … that has put us on notice that a special permit is required,” he said.
If such measures are necessary, he said the city stands ready to apply and obtain a permit.
Several years ago, Bridley became aware that a similar environmental agency had challenged Sea World, which conducts approximately 150 fireworks shows during the summer.
After being ordered to obtain a permit, Sea World did so, he said, and has held its summer shows as planned without issue.
Bridley said while the city doesn’t monitor water quality specifically related to the annual show, crews have been cleaning the beach and near-shore area following the fireworks display for a number of years.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Any debris that is fallout from the show that lands on the beach or the nearby area, we already do that cleanup.”

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