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A Bioswale Comes to Goleta
Coastlines, The University of California Santa Barbara Alumni Association
Summer 1999

When Mark Linehan ’85 and Kimberly Schizas ’77 set out to develop a major "big box" regional shopping center in Goleta, one of the many hurdles they had to overcome was the potential that rain runoff would degrade the Devereux Slough. Their solution was to make an unusual natural filtration system part of the plumbing.

Their Camino Real Marketplace is opening now, store by store, starting with COSTCO in November 1998 and continuing to the end of this year, at the corner of Storke Road and Hollister Road. It houses a mix of national chain and locally-owned businesses. The 83-acre development is divided between stores on the north (Hollister Avenue) side and recreational facilities on the south, along Phelps road.

Part of the infrastructure installed in the earliest stage of the development is an unusual water treatment facility known as a bioswale. The bioswale occupies 1.86 acres between a softball field and parking lot adjacent to some planned skating rinks. Linehan and Schizas studied other examples of bioswales in the Seattle area before creating the country’s largest bioswale in Goleta. Researchers from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management assisted in the bioswale by performing benchmark studies of runoff during its first year of operation.

Studies made in preparation for the development showed that the natural drainage of the area would channel not only the Camino Real Marketplace runoff but to that of an additional 76 acres that includes another shopping center and a business park through the new project on its way through the Devereux Slough on UCSB West Campus to the Santa Barbara Channel. And while the new shopping center, with 500,000 square feet of retail space and parking spaces for 3,300 cars was built with special storm drain inserts that use diatomaceous earth to filter out hydrocarbons, Linehan and Schizas were concerned that wouldn’t provide enough protection for the Slough and the ocean.

So the drainage system was engineered to divert the first portion of runoff into a 100-yard long catch basin- the bioswale- which performs three functions: it improves the quality of the runoff through sedimentation, filtration, absorption, and vegetative uptake; it detains storm water to reduce peak flows from the silt to promote further sedimentation; and it replaces riparian habitat lost during project development through the provision of an area with almost constant water flow and planted with a variety of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation that can uptake nutrients, heavy metals, and organics from the soil.

The bioswale and adjacent fields can also provide storage for six million gallons of runoff during torrential downpours. Meanwhile, the bioswale serves as an oasis of vegetation and birdlife for shoppers and park visitors alike.