The water level in the Goleta Slough has risen so high that it just about touches the bridge crossing from Sandspit Road to Goleta Beach Park. With rain storms and king tides due this coming week, the water’s expected to get even higher. Endangered is the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, built during WWII and dating back to a 1928 low-lying cow pasture used as an airstrip. With the elevated water level, the airport and parts of Old Town Goleta could flood, even with slight rainfall, as its watershed encompasses the surrounding 48 square miles, said the Andrew Bermond, project planner for the City of Santa Barbara, which owns the airport.
On Friday, work crews moved sand to “groom” the mouth of the slough, which is a proposal in the yet-to-be-approved Biological Assessment to manage the slough opening in light of the presence of endangered fish species like tidewater goby and steelhead, flooding, mosquitos, and waterfowl. The county had opened it in the past, but those permits have expired. Project planner Bermond and his engineers project that the rain, creek flow, and tides will open the newly shaped berm in an “assisted natural breach” before the low-lying area behind it floods.
The National Weather Service (NWS) currently predicts an 80 percent chance of heavy rain Sunday night, and a 90 percent chance of showers and occasional heavy rain on Monday. Meteorologist Eric Boldt with the NWS said an inch might fall in the South County and two inches in the Santa Maria area. With ocean swells coming from the southwest, said Boldt, minor coastal flooding could occur as high tides of 6-7 feet or so are forecast. Another light rain should arrive next Wednesday, and a storm Friday-Saturday, bringing another inch or so. Swells are out of the west during that time, which lessens the chance of flooding along the coast, Boldt said.
Bermond added that the closed-off slough has in the past harmed fish due to low oxygen levels and caused mosquito blooms. The rains over Christmas and higher water level have brought many waterfowl into areas near runways at the airport, which has been shooing them away to ward off birdstrikes.