In an effort to protect the Goleta Slough from further destructive development, the UC land reserve system has recently offered to take over the slough’s management and turn it into an ecological reserve.
Jodi Bennett, biologist and environmental evaluator at UCSB, made such a proposal at a recent meeting of the Santa Barbara Environmental Quality Advisory Board (EQAB). At the meeting Bennett was representing Robert Haller, a member of the statewide UC land-reserve system committee.
The meeting was called by EQAB to determine the best method of preserving the slough as a wetland habitat. Laurence Brundall, EQAB chairman, stated that he is currently appointing a committee to continue the study and make recommendations. The committee is hopefully going to include representatives from EQAB, UCSB, the Airport Commission, the State and Federal Fish and Game Departments, the County Flood Control District and other interested parties.
Currently under ownership by the city of Santa Barbara, the 360 acre marsh between the airport and campus is what remains of a much larger slough area that has been limited by natural siltation and by filling and draining to make way for the airport. UCSB is also responsible for much filling that has reduced the dimensions of the slough. The recommendations by the committee concerning the use of the slough will be presented to the Santa Barbara City Council when completed.
Since the proposal for extending Ward Memorial Boulevard is dead and the Airport Commission has indicated that they plan no further development of the slough, Bennett remarked that she had hopes that the University’s offer would be accepted.
“The University now uses the slough extensively for teaching and research purposes, and probably could manage it with little additional costs,” commented Bennett.
“All the slough needs right now is a fence around it to keep out the dogs, horses and the motorcycles,” she added.
Robert Montgomery, regional manager of the State Fish and Game Department, stated at the EQAB meeting that his department could not manage or maintain the slough but it could help provide funds for developing it.
The Fish and Game Department’s $67,000 development plan calls for earthmoving to assure good water flow in the area and for establishing public facilities such as walkways, observation platforms, restrooms, parking lots and other accommodations.
It was this kind of development that Bennett opposed. She expressed hopes that with University management the slough could be made less accessible and more protective for wildlife.
Montgomery, who said he did not object to UCSB management of the slough, said that his department had no intention of turning it into a “Disneyland type of development.”
James Potter, chairman of the Airport Commission, said that he does not anticipate further need of the slough for airport purposes. But he expressed fears that an impending Corps of Engineers flood control project might restore the flow of water and bring in additional birds that would jeopardize airplane traffic.
“We had 12 times as many birds there in 1960 as we have now,” Bennett replied. “More water won’t bring them back. All we’re trying to do is save those that still remain.”