The State Lands Commission, in collaboration with the City of Goleta, has removed the last two oil pier and caisson structures in the state located at Haskell’s Beach in Goleta.
This milestone decommissioning project marks the end of oil production in the Ellwood Oil Field, production that started in the late 1920s and continued into the 1990s. At one time, the shoreline was marked by 13 piers as well as a welter of oil storage and processing facilities immediately onshore. Now the final two piers and caissons are gone, restoring full coastal access and eliminating public safety and environmental threats.
“Removal of the last two oil piers in the state is a defining moment for the region and for California,” said Lieutenant Governor and State Lands Commission Chair Eleni Kounalakis. “Their removal moves us one step closer to a future free of fossil fuels and restores access to a beautiful coastline for the community of Goleta.”
The two structures, known as PRC 421-1 and 421-2, were installed in 1929 and 1930 for the purpose of oil and gas development of the Ellwood Oil Field. After Venoco filed for bankruptcy in 2017, the South Ellwood leases reverted to the State and the Commission embarked on the decommissioning project. The deteriorating piers and caissons represented a physical coastal obstruction, a potential public safety hazard, and a potential environmental hazard because of the presence of hydrocarbon-impacted soil and fill within the pier caissons.
City of Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said: “This is a significant accomplishment. Indeed, old oil and gas infrastructure, piers, and wells are leaving our coastal waters for good. The State Lands Commission partnership with the City of Goleta was key to this restoration effort. Our community and the environment are safer because of these decommissioning efforts and for this, we can be proud.”
The work to remove the two oil piers and caissons began in August, 2022. The Commission prepared an Environmental Impact Report and secured permits for this project in collaboration with federal, state, and local agencies. More information can be found at: www.slc.ca.gov/ceqa/prc-421-decommissioning-project.
The Commission is actively working to decommission several other offshore oil and gas production facilities in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Pre-decommissioning PRC 421. Photo taken in 2010.
Drone photo of the piers taken in 2018.
Post decommissioning PRC 421. Photo taken February 2023.