WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
VENTURA FWO: Avila Beach Oil Spill Restoration Projects Completed
Region 8, March 1, 2008
Restored pools for a fish passage project on Prefumo Creek in San Luis Obispo County.(photo: Judith Hildinger)
Restored pools for a fish passage project on Prefumo Creek in San Luis Obispo County.(photo: Judith Hildinger) - Photo Credit: n/a
A young visitor is given a boost to view one of several  interpretive signs along San Luis Obispo Creek, this one on steelhead trout that spawn in the creek. (photo: Judith Hildinger)
A young visitor is given a boost to view one of several interpretive signs along San Luis Obispo Creek, this one on steelhead trout that spawn in the creek. (photo: Judith Hildinger) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Denise Steurer, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office

The partnership between the Avila Beach Trustee Council and The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County has led to the successful implementation and completion of restoration projects resulting from the Avila Beach oil spill. 

 

The spill occurred on August 3, 1992, when a UNOCAL oil pipeline ruptured and spilled approximately 600 barrels (25,200 gallons) of crude oil onto nearby lands and water in the Avila Beach area, impacting hillside vegetation, intertidal habitat, fish, birds and marine mammals.  In May 1996, a settlement was reached between UNOCAL and the Trustee agencies of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) to provide $950,000 for the restoration of resources injured by the spill. 

 

The Trustees completed the Avila Beach Restoration Plan in March 2001 which outlined the various restoration projects that would restore natural resources impacted by the spill.  This Plan identified restoration of similar natural resources that included riparian re-vegetation, stream bank repair, and fish barrier removal projects.     

 

Due to the difficulty and expense of implementing projects in estuarine and intertidal habitats where the spill occurred, the Trustees decided to implement projects along the riparian corridor of the San Luis Obispo Creek watershed instead.  The cost savings on these projects allowed for the inclusion of additional projects with remaining funds that included an invasive plant removal project and community outreach and education projects.  The Land Conservancy worked on behalf of the Trustee Council on project design, permitting, preparation of implementation plans and local implementation and oversight.  In March 2008, The Land Conservancy and the Trustee Council completed the restoration actions associated with the spill settlement.  

 

In the end, the San Luis Obispo Creek watershed had one linear mile restored with hundreds of native shrubs and trees; twelve acres of wetlands restored; 133 stands of invasive giant reed removed; and completion of eleven fish passage projects that allowed steelhead salmon to access previously unavailable spawning habitat.  As a result of community outreach and education efforts, the Trustees with the Land Conservancy, were able to mark 4,000 storm drains with anti-pollution signage, build five new interpretive signs in the watershed that are viewed by thousands of visitors, and provide stronger bonds between local stakeholders and their environment through volunteerism.

 

The Avila Beach/San Luis Obispo Creek restoration serves as a good example of the successful collaboration and partnership between a local land conservancy and federal and state agencies, along with providing a cost-effective and efficient process for implementing natural resource damage assessment and restoration projects. 

 

Contact Info: Denise Steurer, 805-644-1766 ext 339, denise_steurer@fws.gov