Goleta's new Creek and Watershed Management Plan includes information on creek habitats, like the animals that visit them at night. | Credit: Courtesy

Applause greeted the formal acceptance of Goleta’s Creek and Watershed Management Plan, a task that took just about a year to complete and involved a dozen public airings for the plan to the community, its technical advisory committee, and City Council. The project collected a vast quantity of information on the city’s 12 creeks and their associated watersheds — from the cobblestones along their bottoms to the wildlife that visited their banks — putting it all in one place as a resource for the city’s planners and hoped-for creeks staffers.

Multiple councilmembers and speakers at the meeting on November 17 insisted they didn’t want to see the Management Plan just land on a shelf. Led mainly by the Environmental Defense Center, creek advocates wanted to see the plan maintain creek setbacks to reduce flood damage and for it to get funding for rehabilitation projects. The hope for Goleta is that knowledge and improvement of the dozen creeks that cross through the city could lead to recreation and even creek-facing business opportunities, as in San Luis Obispo’s downtown.

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“We love our creeks, ” said Councilmember Kyle Richards enthusiastically. “They’re a cherished natural resource in our community, and healthy creeks and watersheds are something we really need to protect.” Agreeing with Richards, Mayor Paula Perotte observed the major question remaining was how to fund the work suggested in the plan’s many action items. Most would be performed through the Public Works department, which eliminated new hiring this year due to city revenue losses from coronavirus. Planning manager Anne Wells pointed out that even if they were to apply for the many grants they customarily keep an eye on, they’d need to get a staff member to be in charge as everyone else’s time was already fully engaged.

To that end, most referenced the City of Santa Barbara’s robust and well-funded Creeks Division, which Councilmember James Kyriaco noted benefited from a city measure to improve creek quality. In 2000, Santa Barbara voters approved Measure B, a 2 percent increase in Santa Barbara’s hotel bed tax, all of which went to the Creeks Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Division. Since then, Santa Barbara has eliminated some concrete channels, sponsored creek cleanup programs, and led education initiatives on urban runoff and ocean pollution.

Kyriaco noted Santa Barbara’s measure succeeded after multiple beach closures due to contaminated ocean water. “If we go to the public to ask for funds, or to put city funds toward this, we want to make sure that in selling it, it’s not just aspirational but something that affects people’s daily lives. If we do it right, we’ll prevent beach closures, have pristine creeks, and beautiful recreational resources,” he said. “We don’t want to lose sight of what the public cares about.”

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