Coastal Hazards & Legacy Wells

Summerland beach, California, 110 years after the oil field.

What’s going on?

Legacy Wells

In the late 1800s, the area offshore of Summerland Beach contained hundreds of oil wells and related drilling infrastructure. Today, the coastline area retains the vestiges of that extensive offshore oil production. These are the unfortunate legacy of the rapid and intensive offshore oil development along the coastline that began just before the turn of the twentieth century, primarily at Summerland Beach in Santa Barbara County.

Most legacy oil and gas wells were abandoned in the early 1900s when oversight was nonexistent. Virtually no records exist regarding the drilling and abandonment of these wells. Removal, if any, varied from well to well and involved rudimentary procedures that fell well short of current health, safety, and environmental protection requirements. Based on the Commission’s research, there are approximately 200 high priority legacy oil and gas wells (identified as Category 1 wells), that could, depending on their condition, leak oil into the marine environment, negatively impacting swimmers, surfers, recreational users, and marine and coastal wildlife and fish, as well as causing environmental degradation and public health and safety hazards. Many other wells are categorized as medium (Category 2) to low (Category 3) priority wells because more information is available about the integrity and abandonment of these wells or because a responsible party is or may be available to address any leak that may occur.

Coastal Hazards

California’s first offshore oil wells, Summerland Field, circa 1915

The Commission, when funding is available, removes coastal hazards along the California coast. Coastal hazards include wood or steel piles or piling, sheet metal pilings, H piles and H beams, well casings, well caissons, railroad irons, cables, angle bars, pipes, pipelines, rip rap, and wood beams and structures. In the mid-1980s, the Commission inventoried coastal hazards and identified over 400 hazards on lands within its jurisdiction, many of which are on state and local beaches and in coastal areas that the public uses. Their presence is inherently at odds with safe beach access for recreation, fishing, surfing, swimming, kiteboarding, and other popular public activities. Removing coastal hazards is essential to safe public access.

Photo Gallery: Becker well re-abandonment

The Becker well remediation is complete. Click through the series of photos below showing the oil leakage on Summerland Beach from the Becker well and the progress from when the crane barge arrived through the removal of the cofferdam, and finally, a photo of the Becker well site post-project.

Legacy Wells Plug and Abandonment Engineering Consultant

The Commission has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), RFQ 2019-013, entitled “Legacy Wells Plug and Abandonment Engineering Consultant”. The purpose of this RFQ is to initiate the process by which the Commission will contract with a firm with the appropriate qualifications to perform these plug and abandonment projects that cannot be performed by Commission staff.

Read More …

Coastal Hazards & Legacy Oil & Gas Well Removal & Remediation Program Annual Reports

SB 44 (Jackson) requires the Commission to submit a report to the Legislature by January 1 of each year, until 2026, on the activities and accomplishments of the program for the prior year. 


Summerland Seep Form

Please use this form to report oil seeps or sheens at Summerland Beach in Santa Barbara County.

Email the completed form to or contact the Santa Barbara field office at 805.685.8502 for information about submitting the form or reporting oil seeps or sheens.


Petroleum Drilling Engineer
Steve Curran | 562.590.5266

Media Inquiries or SB 44 questions
Sheri Pemberton | 916.574.1992

EIR and Mitigation Monitoring Program questions
Eric Gillies | 916.574.1897