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Local News

Goleta on Board with Creek Improvement Project to Protect Old Town

Increasing the capacity of San Jose Creek is necessary to proceed with other plans, including the facade program now under consideration

In a milestone step toward controlling the periodic floods that threaten Old Town Goleta, the Goleta City Council and Redevelopment Agency voted Tuesday to move ahead with $1.3 million in design and engineering work for the San Jose Creek capacity improvement project.

A partially channelized waterway that runs from the foothills north of the Goleta Valley through Old Town Goleta to the Goleta Slough, San Jose Creek is known for periodic floods that have damaged buildings in Old Town Goleta.

Improving the capacity of the creek is essential to the city’s other Old Town projects, including the Hollister Avenue redesign and the recently initiated facade rehabilitation program.

“It’s time to go; it’s time to get things moving,” Councilwoman Margaret Connell said before the 4-0-1 vote.

Councilman Ed Easton recused himself from the discussion because he lives in proximity to the project.

The project as proposed by city staff and Bengal Engineering is yet another permutation of three main components: capacity increase, fish passage and the Hollister Avenue bridge that spans the creek. Previous designs have included packages with no fish passage, or no bridge replacement, or only a partial construction of the new channel.

This version takes into account all three components and has a larger scope that the last incarnation of the project. It includes vertical walls, 17 feet deep at the channel’s deepest point, constructed with a combination of I-beams and panels, and for the channel bottom, concrete blocks joined by carbon fiber cables.

The channel floor, in particular, was designed to address the county flood control concerns that the soil was not stable enough to withstand shifts in the ground. The floor, according to Community Services Director Steve Wagner, also would expose the natural bottom of the creek, allowing for groundwater infiltration that would cool the water for the steelhead trout that have been known to traverse the creek. The floor also would allow for the growth of vegetation, and notches carved out in the concrete floor would allow for easier passage for the fish.

The Hollister Avenue bridge over the creek will also need replacement, because of material in the bridge that is disintegrating.

The cost for the proposed project is an estimated $24.3 million, with $4 million to $5 million coming from the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, $12.9 million from Goleta Redevelopment Agency funds and $100,000 from a Goleta Valley Land Trust contribution. The Goleta RDA already has about $5 million in hand and would have to bond for the remainder.

About $4.2 million will come from other sources for the bridge, and the city is awaiting money from federal and other sources. Wagner said the cost will be adjusted as the project moves along.

Although a couple of members of the council and RDA expressed disappointment with what they saw as low funding from county flood control, which for some reason did not initially include the fish passage project on its list for capital improvement projects, the majority agreed that the project needed to be done to alleviate the creek’s tendency to flood and to allow other Old Town projects to hit the ground.

Wagner said that although the county department did not include the project in its circa 1996 list of capital projects, it did come up with a 20 percent contribution.

Major construction is expected to start next spring, though Wagner indicated that the piles for the channel walls may be placed sooner without interrupting winter flows. The creek and the bridge are likely to take two years each to construct, but the intention is to overlap construction for a three-year time line.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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