The Goleta Slough is a large salt marsh (estuary) located around the Santa Barbara Airport and UCSB. In a healthy estuary, saltwater from the ocean goes into and out of the estuary twice each day with the tides. However, in one of the estuary’s channels, “tide gates” were installed sometime before 1942 in order to prevent tidewaters from moving up into the upper part of the estuary. Years ago, the original tide gates were replaced with smaller ones, and have been frozen shut for decades. Some tidewater gets through the gates, but most tidewater cannot move up into the upper wetlands of the estuary. This has reduced the value of the estuary’s wetlands for native plants and animals there because they don’t flood as often as they used to do before the tide gates were installed. We want to move or remove the tide gates to restore the wetlands, in hopes that an endangered bird, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow will breed in this area, along with other species.

Relocation or outright removal of the tide gates has been on the wish lists of local and state agencies for many years. These include the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Santa Barbara, the Airport, the Goleta Slough Management Committee, the Coastal Commission, and UCSB. Estuary restoration was implemented by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, including removal of fill that had been placed in the estuary and planting more than 17,000 native plants. That was followed by moving a sewer line that was near Los Carneros Road out of the estuary. Now all that is needed is saltwater.

CIR is currently raising money to fund a hydrologic engineering study. The study will determine whether it is feasible to move the tide gates to the west or to remove them entirely without causing flooding of roads, buildings and other infrastructure. If the study finds that no flooding would occur, then we will request authorizations from the landowners and agencies to move or remove the tide gates. Once we move or remove them the saltwater will be able to flow in and out with the tides and more than 15 acres of estuary wetlands will be restored. The UCSB Associated Students Coastal Fund has kick-started the effort by giving us a large grant funds from the US Fish and Wildlife Service have been secured for the project. However, your contributions still make a huge difference in ensuring that this project is a success! Can you help us by donating to this cause?