An angelshark swimming up Goleta Beach Slough, a State Marine Conservation Area.
David Bacon pinned a righteous note to the bulletin board over at Noozhawk decrying the dumping of tons of sediment from local creeks into Goleta Bay.
Santa Barbara County has options for where to dump excess mud and debris after major rains, yet they choose Goleta Bay apparently because it seems to be the easiest to get dump trucks and bulldozers into and out of.
In doing so, they turn a thriving ecosystem into a wasteland, drive away wildlife, and take food out of the mouths of underprivileged children and adults.
Can you tell I’m upset? I sure am! And this isn’t the first time. The county has done this repeatedly, each time we have a wet winter that causes mudflows.
Bacon did not mention the federally listed, critically endangered southern steelhead in this particular article, which we know transit through Goleta Bay and into the slough and up into local creeks.
Signs noting the presence and protection of the steelhead are posted around Goleta Beach Park and fishing for them is not allowed.
Bacon has previously written of this: Goleta Slough Flowing to the Sea Opens Up Possibilities for Steelhead
We’ve seen the steelhead in the creek through the years. I’ve made it a point to bring the kids and check a certain creek in a certain place every winter, rains providing, to search for the fish once the waters clear from runoff sediment.
The steelhead do come, but so few and never often.
We wonder what the fouling of the bay has done and might do to the steelhead, and everything else.
With the torrential rains this may be the best season in a decade or more for the steelhead, but for the murk in the bay from being artificially infused with muck.
Goleta Slough is a State Marine Conservation Area.
In addition, in further recognition and protection of the important biological systems at play here, the law also prohibits spearfishing or even the possession of a spear within 100 yards of the slough mouth.
That means, by my reading, 200 yards total of shoreline surrounding the slough is protected and off-limits to spearfishing due to its biologically sensitive nature.
At least, this is what authorities tell us in justifying the restrictions.
Bacon has previously noted, “Goleta Slough can serve as a major spawning, feeding and nursery area for numerous fish, including such favorites as halibut.”
Halibut is what I’m after, but not there, as per the law.
Men once speared running steelhead with pitchforks in the mouth of the Santa Ynez River: Native Steelhead Of Yore.
Likely today’s prohibition against even so much as possessing a spear near a creekmouth stems from those old days of excess, when supply seemed limitless and restraint unnecessary and we knew much less about how it all worked.
We understand how times have changed, and that it’s probably best to let the slough alone as a nursery.
Instead, harvest those fish elsewhere, in other habitat that can better absorb the pressures of constant human activity, while sustaining healthy wildlife populations.
The common man can see the commonsense reasoning upon which the law is founded.
We can understand the law, but not why the County acts contrary to its spirit.
We live with restraint for sake of conservation, but then here comes Santa Barbara County dumping tons of dirty debris into the ocean and waters we have been told are too sensitive to sustain as part of the local recreational spearfishery.
We recognize the County faced an extraordinary event in the dangers and burdens of heavy rainfall and as such chose to act with extraordinary measures.
Yet, as a result, none of what we have been lead to believe regarding conservation now seems to matter a whit, as they drop a biological bomb’s worth of sediment and muck into the sea.
We can see the mudline in the Santa Barbara Channel from the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
A thinking person cannot help but wonder how spearfishing for halibut 75-yards down-shore from the slough mouth harms or threatens the fishery in any measurable way, while the mass dumping of muddy sluice for days on end does not matter.
We come to wonder why the rules appear to be applied most heavily against the least among us treading most lightly, and not at all to the most powerful whose footprints are the heaviest and the largest.
A spearfisherman wonders why, for conservation’s sake, it is illegal for him to harvest dinner for his family from the same waters the County has then chosen to use as a dump.
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The Public Works Department of Santa Barbara County is utterly dysfunctional. They operate the only garbage dump in the State (maybe in the Country) that is within spitting distance of the ocean just up the coast from Refugio State Beach. They are intent on abandoning the north leg of Refugio Road that connects the South Coast to Santa Ynez Valley due to years of no maintenance of culverts and the subsequent erosion of the road bed during the last storms. This after 8 bridges were constructed on the road at around one million a pop just a few years ago.