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Venoco – State Lease 421 Recommissioning

Venoco SL 421 caisson wall repair project completed on Pier 1, Dec. 2004

What's New


  • In May, 2004, Venoco, Inc. submitted an application to bring the two coastal zone oil production wells within State Lease 421 back into production. The wells are located on piers to the south of the Sandpiper Golf Course in the City of Goleta.
  • California State Lands Commission has released the project Draft EIR and is available on the CSLC website.
  • The issue of Venoco’s “vested rights” to resume oil production at the State Lease 421 piers continues to be investigated while the EIR is prepared.

State Lease 421-1 Repair

  • Venoco, Inc. has applied to the City of Goleta for a Final Development Plan permit (05-132-DP) to validate emergency repair work performed on Pier 1 of State Lease 421. Since 1972, Pier 1 was used as a wastewater and natural gas injection well in support of coastal zone oil production for Pier 2. Repair work was conducted on the ocean face of the caisson structure in the fall of 2004 after a large section of the outer caisson wall sheared off and fell into the surf zone earlier that year following a series of severe winter storms.
  • The City of Goleta will hold a public hearing August 14, 2006, to consider the Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared during the environmental review process of the application.
  • The City of Goleta will hold a public hearing in the fall of 2006 to consider the Final Development Plan permit application and Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared during the environmental review process of the application.


Venoco Inc. owns two idled coastal zone wells at State Lease 421 (SL 421), located on two adjacent piers. Pier 421-1 supports an idled water and gas injection well, and Pier 421-2 supports an idled oil production well. Venoco has applied to install new production equipment and reactivate the oil well on Pier 421-2, as well as reactivate the former injection well on Pier 421-1 for disposal of wastewater and natural gas.


The piers are located immediately south of Sandpiper Golf Course and extend several meters offshore. An existing unpaved road runs from the Ellwood Onshore Facility (EOF) through the golf course, providing access to the piers.

Arial view of SL 421 and surrounding land use

Cleanup Activities

SL 421-1 Repair Project: September- December 2004

  • SL 421-1 caisson wall repaired with new concrete face following winter storm damage in January 2004.
  • Repairs to access road leading from Venoco EOF completed.
  • Debris on beach from fallen wall face removed.

Past Activities

  • Oil and gas processing activity commenced at SL 421 in the 1930s and ceased in 1994.The coastal wells have not been in operation since (except for depressurization activities to relieve wellhead pressure).
  • Both wells were historically used for oil production; however, in 1972 pier 1 was converted for the storage and disposal of wastewater and natural gas produced from pier 2.
  • The wells have been idle since 1994 when a pipeline leading from the lease leaked, resulting in an oil spill of approximately 170 barrels (bbls) onto the Sandpiper Golf Course (SPGC) near the coastal bluff. The pipeline leading from the lease was repaired.
  • In 1997, Venoco acquired the rights to PRC 421 from Mobil Gas Co.
  • Venoco attempted to return the wells to production, submitting applications in October 1997 and April 1998 which were withdrawn and found incomplete, respectively.
  • Problems with both wells arose in November 2000: A methane gas leak was discovered on 421-1, and 421-2 experienced an oil leak induced by a routine fluid level check. An emergency repair permit was issued at the time; the wells were temporarily depressurized and stabilized and the leaks were repaired.
  • In October of 2001, Venoco again submitted an application to return State Lease 421 to production following a series of repairs to the access road and the well stabilization project completed that year. This application was deemed incomplete.
  • In 2002, Venoco re-submitted an application to the State Lands Commission (SLC) and the County of Santa Barbara, which was referred to the City of Goleta by SLC.
  • The City of Goleta raised objection to the recommissioning project due to the history of leakage at the piers, and in 2003, Venoco countered with a “vested rights” claim which would entitle a return to production of SL 421. Venoco also argued against the authority of the City of Goleta to regulate the surf zone wells since they are located offshore under SLC jurisdiction.
  • On January 19, 2004, following a series of severe storms, a large section of the outer caisson wall of SL 421-1 sheared off and fell into the surf below. During low tides, large sections of the concrete debris (approximately 15’ by 30’) and rebar were visible on the beach at the base of the caisson. Emergency permits were issued by the City of Goleta, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the California Coastal Commission and a repair project to mend the caisson wall and clean up the debris commenced on September 27, 2004, ending in December 2004.
  • On May 17, 2004, the City of Goleta went on record in opposition to resumed oil and gas production from SL 421.
  • On May 19, 2004, Venoco re-submitted a recommissioning plan to the SLC, County, and City of Goleta which is currently under environmental review, pending resolution of “vested rights” legal issues.

Preparing for caisson wall construction to seaward face of pier


Cleaning up fallen caisson debris from beach area


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