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The Channel Islands National Park has Received Funding to Remove Derelict oil Well Site

The National Park Service has awarded funds for the removal of seven national park wells

VENTURA— On June 13, the Channel Islands National Park Service announced $1.43 million in funding to remove the infrastructure, seal the oil well, and restore the soil from the drilling site above Scorpion Ranch on the island’s east end.


Funding is a portion of about $9.8 million the National Park Service (NPS) has received from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to plug, remediate, and reclaim abandoned sites in seven national parks.


“It is likely that all equipment will be removed as part of the project,” said, Chief Ranger Mark J. Hnat. “Public safety and restoring the natural condition are the priorities of the program.  The well was erected in the 1960’s.  The records show that no oil was found, but it did produce water.  The well is located at approximately 240 meters (or 787 feet) of elevation.  The depth is unknown, but this will be determined as part of the project.”


Before the park can set a timeline for execution of the well removal, there are several steps that must be completed before the project can go out to bid. Firstly, the finalization of the scope or size of the project, and the assurance that there is compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.


Interest in drilling on the Channel Islands goes back to the early and mid 1900s. There was a specific interest to drill for oil on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands. Three companies—Union Oil, Standard Oil and Richfield Oil—all had plans to test for oil on a hillside above Scorpion Ranch on the island’s east end.


“Richfield has made an extensive geological survey of the island and will continue that work there in choosing a site for the initial drilling effort,” said a company spokesman in 1954. “Preparations are being made to move a rig to the island capable of going 10,000 feet.”


In a 1954 article from Santa Barbara News Press, they said this was the first known attempt to drill for oil on Santa Cruz Island, although seven or eight attempts had been made on adjacent Santa Rosa Island. There was not enough oil found that resulted in commercial production, but some oil showings were found. The ground lease on Santa Cruz Island covered all the island except about 6,800 acres on the eastern end, owned by the Gherini family. Edwin L. Stanton of Long Beach owned the balance of the island.



The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enables NPS to tackle pollution caused by previous drilling in national parks. By reclaiming derelict oil and gas wells the park can alleviate environmental hazards that jeopardize health and safety by contaminating groundwater, emitting noxious gases, and littering the landscape.


As the Channel Islands National Park just received notice of this funding, it will be placed in the queue with other National Park Service contracts for current projects already in the works. The start date, project duration, or other timelines won’t be finalized until the contract is ready to be awarded.


Additional information on other NPS projects funded through this legislation can be found at: www.nps./gov/orgs1207/bil-wells-2022.htm

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