Project successfully completed in Summerland
Last weekend, a Curtin barge contracted by the State Lands Commission finished capping the leaking offshore oil wells Treadwell and NorthStar off the coast of Summerland.
As the News-Press reported when the capping of Treadwell kicked off in the middle of November, Treadwell and NorthStar are respectively the second and third abandoned oil wells to be plugged under Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s Senate Bill 44.
The State Lands Commission’s progress with the well capping project was made possible by nonprofit Heal the Ocean, which provided the commission with needed studies.
Heal the Ocean executive director Hillary Hauser told the News-Press Thursday she is “beyond happy” that the abandoned wells have been plugged and that the capping has already yielded positive results.
She said she has had people express to her how glad they are that they can now walk along certain Summerland beaches without wearing shoes and that they can bring their dogs without having to worry about oil getting in their paws. She described the waters off of Summerland’s southern coast prior to the capping as “unswimmable.”
“It was bad, so now there are just a lot of happy campers down there,” Ms. Hauser said.
In addition to the Rincon Septic-to-Sewer Project, a 15-year endeavor that removed septic systems from seven miles of coastline from Rincon Point to Ventura, the recent well capping was described by the Heal the Ocean director as “one of the biggest changes” to curbing the impacts of local ocean pollution.
The project for capping abandoned oil wells in Summerland began with the plugging of the Becker well in 2018. As Ms. Hauser recalled, this came about when the State Lands Commission became enthusiastic about Heal the Ocean’s idea to cap Becker and provided $750,000 to do so. This was half of the needed costs, and Heal the Ocean acquired the other 50% through a vigorous letter writing campaign to the Governor’s Office.
In 2017, Sen. Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, passed SB 44, which provided $2 million a year for seven years to cap abandoned, leaking offshore wells. However, capping Treadwell and NorthStar cost more than the money set aside by SB 44 and was more in the neighborhood of $3 million to $3.5 million. According to Ms. Hauser, the biggest share of the cost is for the barge.
“The main cost of this project, any of these projects, is getting the barge up from Long Beach,” she said.
Ultimately, the project was paid for by straddling the capping project across two fiscal years so $4 million were available.
As with the Becker well, Treadwell and NorthStar were capped by using a barge to pump them full of cement that will re-solidify rather than leak in the event of an earthquake.
It is noteworthy to note that funds for the research of these leaking wellheads was made possible by the McNeely-Hurley Trust silo and donated to Heal the Ocean with this specific task and goal in mind, cleanup the pollution at Summerland Beach. The funds were used not only to locate precisely where all the oil was coming from but to differentiate that these leaks were not from natural seeps but instead from wellheads over 100 years old. The HTO advisor , who discovered the prolific leaking wellhead, Northstar, was able to provide precise GPS data to California State Lands Commission and Interact, that was awarded the contract and worked alongside HTO over the last 3 years.
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