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Work underway to remove decades-old oil piers on South Coast beach

Work is underway to remove two old oil piers from Goleta's Haskell's Beach.
Work is underway to remove two old oil piers from Goleta's Haskell's Beach.

Two piers will be removed from Haskell's Beach in Goleta: Project expected to take about six months.

Monday is a big day for a South Coast beach. Work is starting on the removal of some oil wells, and piers which are the last visible signs of nearly a century of oil and gas drilling.

Shari Pemberton is with the State Lands Commission. The commission is working with the City of Goleta to remove the old oil facilities at Haskell’s Beach.

"It's a pretty significant project," said Pemberton. "These structures were built in the 1930''s a huge milestone to be on the brink of the work."

Pemberton talks about the basics of the pier and well decommissioning project. "There will be approximately 500 truck trips," said Pemberton. Many of those trips will to be to remove soil from two giant cement caissons. The facilities include two old wells which will be permanently capped.

The beach, and coastline in the area have a long history of oil and gas production. It started in the 1920’s. In fact, at one point there were 13 oil piers in the area. But, over time, only the two remaining structures were left.

They are part of a bigger issue. Venoco owned the piers, the Ellwood Onshore Processing Facility, and off the coast, Platform Holly. In 2015, the Plains All-American Pipeline rupture on the Gaviota Coast cut off the path for Venoco to get the oil to refineries. In 2017, the company filed for bankruptcy, with the state getting stuck with dealing with the facilities.

So, after doing environmental review, a plan was developed to remove the piers, and cap the wells. The project is expected to take about six months.

Work to remove the two oil piers at Goleta's Haskell's Beach will take place in stages, with the project expected to last about six months.

And, planning is underway to decommission, and remove Platform Holly, which again is off the Goleta Coastline. "We are in the process of actively plugging the wells...the 30 wells on the platform," said Pemberton. They are hoping to have all the wells plugged by the end of the year. Then, an environmental review process will begin to play the platform's removal.

Pemberton says that unfortunately, taxpayers are footing much of the bill for the pier, and ultimately the oil platform removal projects.

But, the good news is six months from now, you will be able to walk on Goleta’s Haskell’s Beach and it will just be beach. The last signs of onshore oil and gas development will be gone.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.