SUMMERLAND, Calif. - Decades old leaking oil pipes off Summerland Beach have been slowly going through a process to get recapped, but now a new effort to get more funds and cap more pipes is underway.
The non-profit Heal the Ocean (HTO) is working with Senator Monique Limon (D-19), Bubbleology Research International (BRI) and it's principal investigator Ira Leifer formerly from UC Santa Barbara on this project.
Capping projects are ongoing. The work is being done as part of the Summerland Oil Mitigation Study (SOMS). Over the years, the old oil pipes from aggressive drilling about 100 years ago in this area left behind faulty capping efforts. The oil seeps have come to shore and been damaging to the environment.
In a news release, Heal the Ocean's Executive Director Hillary Hauser said:
The SOMS study will give the CSLC an accessible interactive map for immediate use;
The SOMS study will become an integral part of the legislative budget discussion regarding the extension of SB 44 funding, which is soon to require renewal. Alternatively, it could facilitate the introduction of a new Senate Bill as a funding mechanism to sustain Summerland oil cleanup efforts;
Where SB 44 funding was allocated at the rate of $2 Million per year, the SOMS study will support a lobbying effort aimed at increasing the distribution of the SB 44 funds to $3 Million per year. Thus far, CSLC has been straddling two budget years to accumulate $4 Million for well capping. Combining two budget years (of $3 million a year) to amass $6 Million could potentially secure enough funding for the deployment of a jackup drilling rig. This would address a greater lineup of wells identified in Leifer's SOMS map, allowing a more efficient strategy to this re-abandonment project;
The really good news: CSLC has agreed to review the SOMS study upon its completion.
On site at mid-morning, agencies and interested groups gathered to see the project up close and discuss other work ahead.
Hauser said, "our aim is to get a grip on the system down there on the ocean floor so that the next project has a logic to it."
Among the studies by Leifer will be mapping and air quality. "We know or we think we know where the wells are based on maps that are out of date without GPS where everything's changed but we can find them we hope with different approaches and surveys and so if some is coming from a well it's probably a well."
He also said if someone has found old oil maps from the area, possibly from a relative, he would like to see them.
Assemblymember Gregg Hart's district assistant, Gunner Langenhulzen said, "it's really acts of legislation like SB 44 or non-profits like Heal the Ocean who are putting in the work and putting in the funding to create the change but I think the assembly member would be most proud of the whole sale collaboration that's gone on. " He said Hart has been closely keeping tabs on this project and what more the state could do in the future.
Geordie Scully-Alison with State Senator Monique Limon said, Limon helped to create the legislation that made this and other projects possible. "She's really looking forward to doing a geological study to lay the groundwork for the possibility to get it renewed through the California State legislature. " She said they hope to get ahead of the funding deadline in 2027 with information to convince the legislature to support the work that's necessary to cap the remaining wells and eliminate the oil intrusion into the ocean environment.
Leifer said they hope to be able to determine when a well is leaking and when there is a natural seep with the work they plan ahead.
Residents of Summerland have been involved in these projects from the beginning by taking pictures when oil is present and creating an awareness through their Santa Barbara County Supervisors, years ago.