Underground fuel tanks at Stearns Wharf need replacing

Santa Barbara Harbor Department prepares to take on “biggest, most disruptive project” to replace four underground fuel tanks by 2025.

SANTA BARBARA — For several years, McCormix, Inc., the operators of the four fuel tanks located in close proximity to Stearns Wharf, have tried everything to avoid the disruptive construction that will be taking place in the next few years. However, the time has come where the work needed on the tanks can no longer be ignored by county agencies Environmental Health Services Department and Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA).

Karl Treiberg, Santa Barbara’s waterfront facilities manager, gave a presentation on the pending construction that will be coming to the harbor in the next few years. Currently, the project is still in the planning stages. The four single-wall tanks will be replaced with double-wall tanks for health and safety purposes by 2025.

A construction work plan by McCormix Inc. began in 2016. The four tanks, designed to hold 12,000 gallons of fuel, were originally placed in 1983 near building 117 and 125.

To deter completely replacing the tanks, McCormix Inc. previously presented several alternatives to CUPA including installing new tanks in other locations, abandoning existing tanks and installing new tanks. CUPA deemed all these options infeasible, according to the presentation by Treiberg.

Treiberg said at the meeting: “This project will be quite disruptive” and it may be “the biggest, most disruptive project” that has taken place in Santa Barbara’s harbor in recent years.

Preliminary work would need to be completed prior to installation, including planning and permitting, shoring and dewatering, removal of existing underground fuel tanks and soil management.

Construction is predicted to begin in around two years and take three to four months to complete. McCormix Inc. estimated the cost as being between $600,000 and $800,000 and reported that grant funding was nominal.

Commissioner Bill Spicer was concerned whether the project could take place during the winter in the harbor’s low season. Treiberg stated while staff would work to complete this project during the winter, there could be possibilities it would have to be done during the summertime.

Sea level has also been a concern for the city, as well as the state. The life expectancy of the new tanks is shorter than concerns of upgrades for sea level.

Further, Treiberg clarified when construction does begin, boaters will have access to temporary fuel supplies via trucks while the storage tanks are being replaced and fuel docks are not accessible.

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