Huntington Beach Secret History Lillian Jarrett

Orange County is full of small historical secrets and stories. The one that I found most interesting is about Huntington Beach, more specifically the oil industry and its role there. In the 1920's Huntington Beach hit an oil boom. Oil wells sprung up all along the coast and with it the population grew. By 1953, some of the oil derricks had to be cleared in order to accommodate the influx of people moving to the city. Over the next two decades, it increasingly became one of the most desired destinations to live, so the city attempted to cover the oil rigs in order to create a more pleasing landscape by the beach.

Huntington Beach 1920s, Courtesy of
View up the coast from the Huntington Beach Pier (1926), Courtesy of Orange County Archives
Oil wells along the beach in Huntington Beach (1940)

By 1970, Huntington was the fastest growing city in the nation and largest city in Orange County. The rigs lined the beach until the late 1980s. The city wanted to transform their image from an oil city to a surf city. This doesn't mean they are still not in commission though. In 2012, Huntington produced 2 million barrels and is still making tons of money off of the rigs that remain.

Courtesy of the Orange County Register

Today, many people would like to see the remaining oil rigs gone. The main issue with simply removing them is that many of the rigs harbor coral reef like habitats under the water. Each beam and crossbeam is covered with marine life that would be damaged if the oil rigs were removed. The opposing side believes that the rigs should be removed immediately in order to completely clean up the oceans. This could destroy ecosystems that have been made over multiple past decades. The program is called rigs-to-reefs and has been successful in turning many rigs into beautiful underwater ocean life homes.

Reefs made from the oil rigs beneath Huntington Beach waters, courtesy of New York Times

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