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Wrecked boats and homeless camps create Santa Barbara environmental and safety concerns 

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The environmental group Heal the Ocean says there needs to be immediate action to keep homeless encampments from beach areas, especially below the Santa Barbara Cemetery where there have been repeated concerns.

This week in a fall storm, three boats anchored off East Beach broke away.   

Two made it to shore and one was towed out. Another was collected by the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol before it hit the shore.

The third boat crashed on the rocks below the Clark Estate and Santa Barbara Cemetery.

That area also had a homeless encampment.

Heal the Ocean says if the boat would have flipped those living in the camp could have been seriously hurt.

The belongings there are also a concern in stormy conditions. 

If they get washed out, there is a hazardous condition concern in the ocean and a risk of maritime hazards.

The County of Santa Barbara and the City of Santa Barbara are in talks to address the issue with "No Overnight Camping" signs.    

The request has been made by Heal the Ocean, which has paid for clean-up efforts with its funds, several times.

The signs will assist in a more rapid enforcement.

Heal the Ocean Executive director Hillary Hauser said, "the Sheriff has ask for the posting of the sign  because if you are violating an ordinance you can be arrested.  these people need to know you can't do it and come back do it and come back."

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams' office says it will be joining  a meeting on this issue to get a solution.   No date has been set.

Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse has also been contacted and will be involved.

"You're not supposed to be camping on the beach.  Not any of us," said Hauser.

"I think it is interesting that the two things (boats and camps) came together at once and we can't seem to get anywhere with either one of them," said Hauser.

In many prior attempts, Hauser says, a request for government action has fallen short. "They fight us instead of helping.  They fight.  and so we go in there and spend our money to do their job.  We shouldn't have to  fight so much to have them do what they are supposed to do."

Funds to cover the clean up costs come from the Heal the Ocean budget, created in large part through donations. "How many $20,000. boat clean ups are we going to do?" said Hauser. "This gets frustrating."

She says in part, the problem is boats that are not in a working condition but they are anchored and used for housing.

In emergency situations, Heal the Ocean has gone to the sites to keep the homeless camp items from getting hit by waves. "We ran in there and got all the stuff out of there before the high tide got there," said Hauser.

Board member Harry Rabin has flown a drown over the sites to document the camps and the boat wrecks. He found several areas of concern.

In the past, Rabin's drone shots and maps have been used to help government officials understand where camps are on the beach, in creeks, along freeway corridors, and the Santa Ynez river bed.

For more information go to   Heal the Ocean.

Article Topic Follows: Safety
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.

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