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Oil shouldn’t spoil vacations for California beach tourists

FILE- In this Feb. 6, 1969, file photo, state forestry conservation crews gather up oil-soaked straw on a beach in Santa Barbara, Calif. An oil slick stretched across 9 miles of coastal waters Thursday, May 21, 2015, after a pipeline rupture spilled thousands of gallons of crude just north of Santa Barbara, along the same stretch of coastline as the 1969 spill. (AP Photo/Wally Fong, File)

GOLETA, Calif. (AP) — Images of sticky black beaches and stories of the stink of oil from a broken coastal pipeline shouldn’t force canceled plans for the vast majority of tourists planning ocean vacations in California.

People who had immediate plans at two popular state-owned beaches — Refugio and El Capitan — need to make new ones, as those two spots in the immediate line of the oil spill in Santa Barbara County are closed through Memorial Day weekend and the coast highway next to them has seen slowdowns for the cleanup operations.

However, they represent just a segment of the beaches in Santa Barbara County, the pristine and often pricey stretch of coastline whose boosters bill it as “America’s Riviera.”

The tourism group Visit Santa Barbara and its members are trying to spread the word that almost all of the area, including every hotel and resort, is open for business, spokeswoman Karna Hughes said Thursday.

“The spill hasn’t reached the waters off Santa Barbara,” Hughes said.

The slick from the pipeline, which burst and spewed into the ocean on Tuesday, now covers nine miles of ocean, but it’s diluting as it spreads and is still 15 miles from Santa Barbara itself.

A handful of reports of bits of oil reaching further south may be the naturally occurring seepage that happens in the oil-rich area.

“There are some scattered tar balls but those may not even be associated with this spill,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams said at a news conference Thursday night.

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