South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer

Heal the Ocean championed the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project to remove 130 septic systems from seven miles of Santa Barbara County coastline.


This project is the culmination of years of effort through a partnership between Carpinteria Sanitary District and Heal the Ocean to remove septic systems and provide sewer service to the Rincon, Padaro Lane, Sandyland, and Sand Point communities in southern Santa Barbara County. This fifteen year battle to remove polluting septic systems from these popular beaches, and the world-famous Rincon surf break, was only possible thanks to the tireless strength of Carpinteria Sanitary District, Rincon Homeowners, and so many Heal the Ocean supporters. 

This webpage includes photos of many of the amazing individuals that made this project a reality as a tribute to their steadfast support through all of the twists and turns in the 15-year saga to bring this project to fruition.

To learn more about this incredible journey, please download our  Rincon Special Edition Newsletter.

Key Milestones

  • Pre-August 1998

    CURE Petition

    CURE (Clean up Rincon Effluent), started by Joel Smith ("Smitty"), Wayne Babcock, and Doug deFirmian, circulates a petition among surfers complaining about getting sick after surfing at the Rincon.

  • October 1998

    Lower Rincon Creek Watershed Study

    After Heal the Ocean’s (HTO) founding earlier that year, HTO partners with Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services to fund a groundbreaking study on sources of fecal bacteria in Rincon Creek. Results find human sources of contamination and provide support for surfers’ longstanding concerns with water quality at Rincon beaches.

    Read the Lower Rincon Creek Watershed Study

  • August 2000

    Rincon Sewer Engineering Study

    With contributory funding from Heal the Ocean and our partners, the Rincon sewer engineering study estimates sewer hookup costs at $2.9 million. Rincon homeowners ultimately vote overwhelmingly in favor of levying their homes to fund this project with 74% voting in favor. The total price includes $425,000 for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required for the project.

  • September 2001

    Successful Grant Application for Environmental Impact Report

    With no alternative funding available, Heal the Ocean helps then-Carpinteria Sanitary District Manager John Miko secure grant funding for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required for this project. The grant is awarded to this project by the State Water Board as a “number one priority.”

  • September 2004

    Final EIR Approved

    After over a year of work, the vital final (multi-volume) EIR is completed and approved by the Carpinteria Sanitary District.

  • June 2005

    Supplemental EIR Fund Established

    Heal the Ocean establishes a $48k Supplemental EIR fund, to have additional planning work completed on the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer project.

  • August 2007

    Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) Vote

    LAFCO unanimously votes to approve the Rincon, Padaro Lane, Sandyland, and Sand Point annexation to Carpinteria Sanitary District.

  • September 2007

    Clean Beaches Initiative Grant

    Heal the Ocean successfully defends a $2.1 million grant application by Carpinteria Sanitary District against protests from several project opponents. The grant ultimately reduced homeowner costs by 25%.

  • December 2007

    Regional Water Board Resolution of Appreciation

    The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) passes Resolution No. R3-2007-0095 supporting the septic to sewer project.

  • April 2008

    Rincon Community Votes in Favor of Annexation

    The final vote by the Rincon community is 73-59 in favor of annexation to the Carpinteria Sanitary District’s sphere of influence.

  • July 2008

    Annexation Vote Challenged in Court

    A group of Rincon residents challenge the outcome of the annexation vote with a lawsuit. Heal the Ocean hires Santa Monica attorney Fred Woocher to defend the vote in Ventura Superior Court. After reviewing and recounting all ballots cast in the annexation vote (pictured above), the proponents of annexation win, and the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project is free to move forward.

  • April 2012

    Caltrans Permit Approval

    Caltrans originally objected to the proposed route for the sewer line to the Rincon community (Caltrans proposed Alignment #5 pictured above in yellow would have sunk the project). With help from Assemblyman Das Williams, Caltrans approves a more direct route, the Rincon permit is approved, and the project is given the go-ahead.

  • April 2012

    Construction Completed at Sandyland and Sand Point Communities

    While the legal battles raged on at Rincon, the other communities of Sandyland and Sand Point were completed in May 2012. With Padaro Lane having hooked up already, over 80 septic systems had now been removed from the Santa Barbara coastline.

  • August 2013

    Rincon Groundbreaking Ceremony

    Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser joins Rincon homeowners, state and local officials, surfers, and members of the Carpinteria Sanitary District Board of Directors for a joyful groundbreaking of the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project.

  • September 2014

    Construction Completed at Rincon Community

    On Hillary Hauser's 70th birthday, September 4, 2014, the Carpinteria Sanitary District signs off on construction contracts with Tierra Contracting and Travis Agricultural Construction, signaling the successful conclusion of the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project fifteen years after it started.

  • January 2015

    Regional Water Board Commendation


    On January 19, 2015, Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser accepts a Commendation from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in recognition of the great success of Heal the Ocean and our supporters in working with the Carpinteria Sanitary District in completing the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project.

    The success of this project is shared by all of our supporters, and for those who couldn't be there with us to receive this Commendation, click on the audio below of Regional Water Board Member Jeffrey Young reading the Resolution, which states:

    “Whereas without Hillary Hauser and Heal the Ocean’s commitment to clean water and incredible drive, leadership, and perseverance to seeing the Rincon and the other local beach communities sewered, and the vital role played by the Carpinteria Sanitary District, which stayed steady through this difficult and expensive process, and recognizing the steadfastness of the Rincon homeowners who held fundraising drives to help cover Heal the Ocean’s tremendous legal expenses and cash outlays, this incredible accomplishment might not have come to fruition. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board hereby commends and thanks Heal the Ocean and all of the numerous helpers and supporters that made this effort such a memorable success.”

    (Click here for the audio from the full hearing)


Thank you to all of our supporters who stuck with us throughout this incredible saga…your energy and spirit made possible the protection of these treasured beaches for decades to come.


Read more about the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project in our Rincon Special Edition Newsletter.


Proud Corporate Supporters of Heal the Ocean

Individual Donors

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