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Oil lines the shore  on Refugio Beach after a 2015 oil spill, Santa Barbara, CA

Refugio Beach Oil Spill Trustees Release a Draft Assessment and Restoration Plan for Public Comment

April 22, 2020

NOAA, and the state and federal Trustees working on restoring habitat and resources impacted by the Refugio Beach oil spill near Santa Barbara, have released a draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (PDF, 173 pages) for public comment. 

The Public comment period is open through June 8, 2020, and the Trustees are hosting two public webinars on May 13, 2020 to present the plan, take questions, and receive written public comments.

Oil Spill, Assessment and Draft Plan

The spill occurred on May 19, 2015, when a on-shore pipeline (Line 901) ruptured and released more than 123,000 gallons of heavy crude oil. The oil flowed through a culvert under U.S. Highway 101 and adjacent railroad tracks, and approximately 53,000 gallons reached the Pacific Ocean polluting state beaches that included Refugio and El Capitan. The oil then reached other beaches as far south as Los Angeles County.

The draft plan describes how the oil spill injured birds, marine mammals, and marine habitats, and impacted human uses, like recreation and beachgoing. The plan proposes $22 million in restoration projects to restore the wildlife and habitats, and to compensate the public for the impacts to recreation. The full plan and all the apendices can be found in the Refugio Oil Spill DIVER Administrative Record.

The Trustees developed the draft plan based on a multi-year assessment (PDF, 5 pages) that started in 2015. Along with their own scientific experts, they solicited public input from academia, land managers, and other community stakeholders to understand how the spill affected the surrounding resources. 

Funding for the proposed projects will come from a proposed settlement announced by the Department of Justice in March 2020.

Public Comment and Webinar

A copy of the draft plan can also be found at the State of California’s Refugio oil spill web page. Please send your written comments on the plan no later than June 8, 2020 to: 

  • By email to: 
  • By mail to: Refugio Beach Oil Spill Natural Resource Trustees
    C/O Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office
    2493 Portola Road, Suite B
    Ventura, CA  93004

You’re also invited to submit comments at the two public webinars on May 13. The first from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. PT, and the second from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. PT. 

During these virtual public meetings the draft plan will be outlined, followed by an "open house" written question and answer session. Written public comments will also be accepted.

The Trustee agencies include NOAA, the United States Department of the Interior through the Fish and Wildlife Service; California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and Department of Parks and Recreation, the California State Lands Commission, and the Regents of the University of California.