Few people realize the value of the estuary connecting the Goleta Slough with the Pacific Ocean. As is true of most estuaries, the one in Goleta is vital to the survival of the slough and its living organisms.
As part of an annual cycle of revival and replenishment, the narrow sand bar separating the slough from the salt water of the Pacific recently broke and now water ebbs and flows between the slough and the sea.
Although this takes place almost every year, the heavy rains of recent months undoubtedly made the channel-opening doubly sure.
This infusion of salt water has no appreciable ill effects on the rich life in the slough. In fact, if the experts are to [be] believed, its effect should be beneficial, helping to prolong the life of the often-threatened-by-developers-and-other creatures [in the] Goleta Slough.
Dr. Eugene Odum, noted ecologist at the University of Georgia, finds that estuaries are twenty times as productive as the open sea, seven times as productive as an alfalfa field and twice as productive as a corn field.
Wesley Marx, in his book, “The Frail Ocean,” states that, “Such prime fertility supports an abundant marine community. The quiet, modest estuary is, in reality, a powerful biological engine driven by currents, the sun, land drainage and the tide-nudging moon.”
The Goleta estuary and slough are no different than any other. They provide shelter and food for countless birds, fishes and ocean life. Although the area has shrunk greatly in the past fifty years, “it continues to support an important biotic community,” a report by the State of California’s Department of Fish and Game explains.
According to Fish and Game, unless measures are undertaken to reverse the physical changes and ecological succession attributable to the filling and draining processes, the present marshlands may have a life expectancy of no more than 10-20 years.”
The Goleta slough serves as an outdoor laboratory for more than 2,000 grammar school, high school and college students. Its mud flats, tidal channels and related habitat provide a place where people can observe, study and enjoy wildlife.
Three-hundred acres of the slough are owned by the City of Santa Barbara, 60 acres is University of California property and three small freshwater marshes are on contiguous lands, both private and public.
Proposals for development of the slough include plans for a recreational lake, a golf course, a freeway, airport expansions, a flood control project and an ecological study area.
The plan by the Department of Fish and Game, recently recognized by the City of Santa Barbara, recommends that, the undeveloped portion of Goleta Slough should be dedicated to ecological and education use and that all interested agencies should cooperate in a program designed to maintain and enhance its natural resources.”
The slough, linked to the ocean by the estuary, needs water moving back and forth, to survive. The present amount of water movement through the estuary is not sufficient to keep the slough open to the sea. The Army Corps of Engineers is in favor of dredging in compliance with the environmentalists in order to keep the water moving.
Many environmentalists agree with UCSB geology professor, Norman Sanders, that, “Man has mucked up the environment so much that only man can keep it going.” He asks, “Why should we constantly have to defend our environment? The government should stop destruction so the citizens won’t have to do it. Politicians are supposed to represent our best interests, not vested interests. Unfortunately, they vote ‘progress,’ not environmental good sense.”