Goleta’s Slough of Problems

Experts Worry How Sea Level Rise Will Affect Airport, Beach, UCSB

Thursday, February 20, 2014
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With sea levels rising ever-increasingly, the Goleta Slough Management Committee has recently taken steps to see what the rising waters could mean for the slough, its habitats, and the entities in its wake ​— ​including the Santa Barbara Airport, UCSB, two sanitary districts, Goleta Beach, and underground gas storage and pipelines, plus many businesses and widely traveled roads and bridges ​— ​and how the area can prepare for its likely water-inundated future. Since the 1990s, sea-level rise has clocked in at about three millimeters, or one-tenth of an inch, per year but is projected to reach 15 millimeters per year by 2100, said Dave Revell, a geomorphologist who helped conduct the assessment for the committee. “Sea-level rise is a long-term issue that we need to deal with,” he said. “In the future, it may require a complete rethink of how we manage Goleta Slough and all of the infrastructure that is in there.”

Experts said that they worry rising waters could flood the airport ​— ​the runways, Revell said, are about nine feet above sea level and high tide hits the seven-foot mark ​— ​and the streets and that, although hard to imagine in the midst of a severe drought, strong rainstorms, coupled with rising waters, could turn the slough into a bathtub and prevent the storm drains from draining. Wildlife would also be affected, said Rachel Couch of the Coastal Conservancy, which helped fund the assessment. While she said it was unclear exactly how steelhead trout would fare, Belding’s savannah sparrows would suffer, but shore birds would benefit from the water’s ability to turn the mid-marsh into mud flats. Geese and ducks could arrive in greater numbers, posing safety risks for the airport.

Thousands of years from now could see the need for everything in the slough’s vicinity to relocate, Revell said. In the nearer future, though, adaptation measures like resurfacing roads and airport runways slightly higher and allowing sediment into the slough ​— ​long prevented ​— ​commensurate with the rising waters could help, said Committee facilitator Pat Saley, who added that the group will be incorporating the assessment into its slough management plan and figuring out a way for all of the jurisdictions involved to discuss strategies. “This initial study is so important to getting the discussion going,” she said. “We’re trying to be proactive, not reactive.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Very forward thinking to be planning 80 years in advance for the year 2100. But the question remains while we're in a drought and all the creeks are dry, why is the Goleta Slough at it's highest water level? Why is this stagnant water allowed to sit there and breed mosquitoes?

CManSB (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 12:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Sky is Falling . . . The Sky is Falling . . .

sbresident2 (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 10:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sea walls similar to levy's like in Louisiana and Denmark. Goleta Beach will wash away (well, what's left after managed retreat). Mr. Revell is also tightly aligned with EDC from the permeable pier proposal that they were against back in 2009. Oh, and one little detail.....who is going to pay for the raising of runways and roads? Sorry, just trying to be 'proactive' on project costs.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's see. The sea level has risen by an average of 0.14 inches annually for the last 20 years. If this is what we are worrying about, we don't have enough going on in our lives.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Excuse me.... But you editors must be breathing in the twenty tons of CO2 coming from the gallon of natural gas...
How else could the "seal levels" be rising so rapidly.

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Think spatially: a given unit of vertical rise equals many times that laterally.

watermillvillage (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 10:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It would be easy to shrug (or even laugh) this off. However, looking at the long term projections for sea level rise and the potential for large El Nino influenced storm events occurring simultaneously with king tides and it is very easy to come to the conclusion that the Santa Barbara Airport could very well be underwater for extended periods of time in the future. Imagine what it would cost to raise the airport six feet or so and how much fill dirt it would take to do so. I probably will not live to see it, but the day may come when the airport has to be moved to the north side of Hollister Avenue and current land on which the airport now stands has to be abandoned to the ducks.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 3:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Since the 1990s, sea-level rise has clocked in at about three millimeters, or one-tenth of an inch, per year but is projected to reach 15 millimeters per year by 2100, said Dave Revell, a geomorphologist who helped conduct the assessment for the committee."

One poster read up to the third comma. Another poster read after the third comma. Here is the whole sentence, succinctly.

Current rate: 3 millimeters per year
By 2100: 15 millimeters per year

tabatha (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2014 at 4:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One place the author didn't mention is the Del Playa bluffs. In any global warming scenario, those would probably be the first to go.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 23, 2014 at 6:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually, Isla Vista is at about 30 feet above sea level while the Santa Barbara Airport is only about 9 feet above sea level. Consequently, the airport will be under water long before Isla Vista is. As sea levels rise, the king tides will likely do a number on the Del Playa bluffs and some of the properties will be lost, but not all of them. The buildings on the mountain side of the street are probably fairly safe for a long time. I wonder if UCSB has plans to retreat from the low lying areas surrounding the lagoon?

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2014 at 3:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That slough needs a good rinse. Leave it alone.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2014 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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