Rincon Island | Credit: Courtesy

Rincon Island, often called the ninth Channel Island, is an artificial islet 2.3 acres in size near the seaside communities of Mussel Shoals and La Conchita. In 1955, Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) secured the state lease to the offshore Rincon Oil Field and built the island using French-designed cement tetrapods, as well as its connecting causeway, known as the Richfield Pier.

Since its completion over six decades ago, exactly one private party has been held there. In August 1992, an oil company executive granted permission to neighboring rancher, Kay Haley, to host a Fiesta party fundraiser to benefit the Ventura Museum. More than 100 people enjoyed the first-ever event, where mariachis serenaded tables glowing orange in the setting sun as guests marveled at the offshore view of the world driving by.

In October 2002, Greka Energy bought the Rincon Island operation, which included 56 wells and came with debt. Six years later, production was suspended when testing found serious structural deficiencies with the causeway. In 2008, employees switched to using golf carts to reach the island because vehicle traffic was deemed too dangerous. 

The State Lands Commission determined the cost of enforcement and monitoring the Rincon Island lease was well in excess of $100,000 per year on a lease that paid $20,000. On June 17, 2011, the federal government sued Greka for more than $2.4 million in cleanup costs.

In 2017, the California State Lands Commission took back the leases associated with Rincon Island, ending offshore oil drilling and production from the site. Rincon Island is now part of the California Coastal Sanctuary.

The well decommissioning is on schedule to be completed by the end of this year. Left to accomplish is the removal of the island tanks, vessels, and facilities. Now two years in the planning, the Santa Cruz Island Foundation is working with state officials to receive permission to host the second-ever event on Rincon Island.

All Nine, anyone?

The article was produced and originally published by the Santa Cruz Island Foundation.

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