Carpinteria resident starts effort to stop trucks from unloading at beach off Ash Avenue
A petition to stop the debris dumping on the Ash Avenue beach has been started by Michelle Carlen, a Carpinteria resident and business owner.
Ms. Carlen’s petition at www.change.org currently has more than 450 signatures to halt the dumping at Carpinteria City Beach off Ash Avenue. It is known as one of the city’s most popular tourist spots.
“The county is pulling emergency permits to dump debris in Carpinteria and Goleta beaches,” Ms. Carlen told the News-Press.
“We had the Thomas Fire in December 2017 — trees, shrubs and everything burned which contributed to the 1/9 debris flow in January 2018,” Ms. Carlen said. “This was the first time an emergency permit was pulled to dump at Carpinteria beach. Because it was an emergency, it was a one-time thing.
“On Jan, 9, 2023, our Ash Avenue beach was dictated by the County of Santa Barbara as being a location to dump debris and mud from the flood basins,” Ms. Carlen said.
“The county has had five years to figure out how to dump debris basins properly. Now they are in a panic trying to clear the debris,” Ms. Carlen said. “The county knew there was a problem; if you know there is a problem, you need to mitigate the risk.
“There are different entities involved in the dumping including: the California Coastal Commission, the county of Santa Barbara and the Army Corp of Engineers at the L.A. district office,” said Ms. Carlen.
“I have contacted the district office of EPA out of San Francisco, I have called the Coastal Commission, appeared at city of Carpinteria council meetings, called county Supervisor Das Williams’ office, called NOAA, Heal the Ocean, Central Coast Water Board and many other agencies,” said Ms. Carlen.
She also indicated that she is still waiting for a call back from Supervisor Williams.
“As a Carpinterian who takes my toddlers to swim off Ash beach, I care deeply about protecting it.” Mr. Williams, the 1st District supervisor and the new chair of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, told the News-Press in an email.
“After the historic January storm, the Santa Monica Debris Basin above Carpinteria was 80% full, and clearing the basin is a vital emergency service that protects us all from debris flows,” Supervisor Williams said. “We cannot leave material in there without endangering the people of Carpinteria. The material being placed at Ash Beach comes from the watershed above Carpinteria.”
Supervisor Williams said a beach is the correct place to deposit the material, which includes mud.
“Beach scientists have advised us this is exactly what our beaches, typically starved of new sand, need to protect them against erosion,” he said. “Placing it elsewhere would be far more environmentally damaging due to the pollution caused by long-distance heavy truck trips.
“Estimates show the alternative sites would create as much as 98,400 vehicle miles traveled (vs. 1,700 to Ash beach), which is too much traffic and air pollution to inflict upon the community,” Supervisor Williams said.
But Ms. Carlen noted, “Santa Barbara Channelkeeper has been advocating to stop emergency permitting. It is not safe to dump those materials in the ocean. The composite of sediment is not what would be found in the ocean. We don’t know what kind of chemicals are in the debris.”
Ted Morton, executive director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, echoed her concern in an email to the News-Press.
“Channelkeeper is concerned about the impacts of mud dumping at Carpinteria and Goleta beaches,” Mr. Morton said. “The constant, daily dumping of mud and debris impairs water quality and affects fish, wildlife and other biological resources by increasing silt, turbidity and contaminants such as ammonia nitrogen in coastal waters.
“We believe there are better options that should be explored and put in place,” Mr. Morton said. “We will be doing more outreach to county officials to explore these alternatives and a more protective, long-term solution.”
Heal the Ocean did not respond to the News-Press’ request for comment.
“According to the county, the materials being dumped are safe and do not raise the bacteria levels,” Ms. Carlen told the News-Press. “However, when I contacted the Environmental Health Services in Santa Barbara, the reports indicate that tests are showing harmful levels. The California state parks have posted signs at their beach to stay out of the water — ‘hazardous materials submerged.’”
The News-Press asked Ms. Carlen where else she would like to see the debris dumped.
“Let’s get the great minds of Santa Barbara County together and come up with a solution,” she answered. “To say there is no other option is insanity. This state claims to care about the environment. So how can something like this continue?
“Every time we have a rain event, we have an emergency permit and dump it at the beach,” Ms. Carlen said. “That’s not environmentally friendly, and it’s not a solution. It’s a Band-Aid.”
“I think people should do some research and contact organizations involved in environmental studies and marine life which understand that putting sediment in the ocean at this rate is not normal,” Ms. Carlen said. “People that are aware of the problem are doing the work, but the resistance is ‘It’s an emergency,’ but it doesn’t have to be an emergency.
“People need a voice; the people should make the decision about where emergency permits are going,” Ms. Carlen said. “Let’s put this on the ballot, and get this decision to the people.”