A local non-profit made a big move to help improve the water quality at Summerland Beach.
Heal the Ocean secured funding for an aerial survey of the Summerland Oil Field and the project is moving forward under the oversight of the California State Lands Commission.
Aqueos, a subsea service contractor, is using a drone to evaluate the oil sheen on the water. The company performing the drone surveillance is Planck Aerosystems.
The data collected will help pinpoint the sources of oil and help target areas for divers during underwater investigations of those 'hotspots.'
The Summerland Oil Field accounts for 192 of California's 200 abandoned oil wells, also known as Legacy Wells.
The commission said at least three wells are confirmed to be leaking in Summerland, including the Becker well. Recent rains and erosion exposed two previously 'unknown' wells which were added to the commission's current inventory.
Weeks after those wells were exposed, a bill by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to monitor and cap wells passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee with a unanimous vote.
Heal the Ocean is rallying behind Jackson's SB44, which would allocate $2 million dollars each year for remediation.
"That would provide yearly funding, to address abandoning and capping these legacy wells and to remove coastal hazards and infrastructure," said senior petroleum engineer Steve Curran. "Summerland would be the main focus because out of the 200 legacy wells, 192 are here."
The price tag to cap Summerland's Becker well is $1.4 million dollars. Half of that amount, coming from state coffers, has already been approved. The second half is in the budget, but has not been finalized. If the budget is approved, work on the well could begin in the fall.
The aerial surveillance project is expected to wrap up in May.
Summerland residents Nora McNeely Hurley and Michael Hurley with the Manitou Fund donated to the project.