Nearly two months after the devastating Santa Barbara County oil spill that released 101,000 gallons of crude oil into a culvert, impacting ocean water and the shoreline, of which 21,000 gallons migrated to the ocean, the last of the closed state beaches is scheduled to open.
Authorities said Refugio State Beach is safe for the public Thursday after continuous assessments, and announced it would reopen July 17.
Although recreational activities like swimming, camping, and fishing will resume with the opening, non-state beach areas of the coast will remain closed for further cleanup.
Those "pocket beaches" that remain closed, some of which are locally known as Las Flores beach and Venedito Beach, were the areas that were hit hardest by the May 19 oil spill, and also the hardest to clean, according to Eric Hjelstrom, the State Parks Superintendent, Santa Barbara sector.
As crews continue to brush and scrape oil off covered rocks and surfaces, officials ask the public to stay clear of closed areas north of Refugio State Beach, along with the closed pocket beaches between Refugio and neighboring El Capitan State Beach, which reopened June 26.
Geographically there's not much left to do, but the last two-to-three percent of beaches still being cleaned are the areas that were affected most by the oil spill, Hjelstrom said.
"All in all we're steadily taking chunks out of it," he added.
Refugio State Beach was the closest beach to the pipeline when it burst, making it the most severely affected by the spill.
The Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety is investigating what caused the break, and state prosecutors have been considering potential charges against Plains All American Pipeline, the company that operates the conduit that ruptured, according to the Associated Press.
Authorities have not yet determined when the remaining portions of beach will be safe to reopen.