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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 2:07 am | Fair 48º


Heavy Rains Wash Away Years of Work at Quail Springs Farm

But staff at the permaculture facility in the upper Cuyama Valley are looking on the bright side as they quickly begin recovery efforts

Last Friday, when a sudden storm dropped more than 2 inches of rain in about an hour, the staff at Quail Springs — a 450-acre permaculture farm and education center in the upper Cuyama Valley — thought they had seen the worst of the bad weather that hovered over the farm. The flooding ripped out one of the property’s gabions, or retaining walls, and the swales they had created to manage runoff, and damaged about a tenth of the garden the staff had planted.

But the next day, a much more menacing storm rolled in, descending on the valley. Hail fell along with torrential rains, and heavy winds battered the property. Three inches of rain pelted the property in a little more than a half-hour, and flooding began into the main canyon.

During the past six years, workers have crafted Quail Springs into a renowned sustainability education center and demonstration site. What happened next was something they never could have imagined, according to an e-mail sent out by staff on Monday evening.

A wall of water tore through the canyon, tearing up large cottonwood trees, ripping out the largest retaining walks and allowing the water to span nearly 1,000 feet across the canyon in some areas.

“It was a sight to behold and an event that made your heart nearly stand still,” the statement read.

The entire garden, pond and water harvesting structures, as well as several tractors, irrigation and fencing were washed away. Even a trailer on the property was transported several hundred yards down the canyon.

No one was injured during the flooding, for which the staff expressed gratitude, but they estimated more than $40,000 in damages, as well as years of work.

“As the water receded, we were stunned and humbled to see the damage and feel in our hearts the loss that had just occurred. Nearly six years of our work building soil and laying infrastructure was washed away in minutes,” according to the e-mail. “Once we realized everyone was safe, we shared tears and a bit of laughter. We are having to remember that we are working on a 200-year plan and that these events will help us redesign and rebuild in a way that is more appropriate for the vagaries of this ancient spring canyon and the place we call home.”
Noozhawk checked in with Quail Springs Community Development Director Tynes Viar on Tuesday, who said it’s the first natural disaster on the property in the six years it’s been there. Though Viar wasn’t at the property during the flood, “there was definitely an awe factor going on while they were watching this happen,” he said of his fellow Quail Springs staff. “This amount of water was completely new.

He said drought is usually the biggest weather issue the property has to deal with. At first, Viar said, the group was considering it the type of flood that occurs once every 100 years, but after talking to residents nearby, he said the locals consider what happened last Saturday a 300-year flood event.

“We’re literally digging out from that situation,” he said.

With a host of farm equipment buried under the ground, exhuming it before the ground hardens over it has forced the team to move fast. The first task at hand is getting the water system back up and running, and the group hopes to have that done within a week. That will involve putting pipes back in, and getting basic infrastructure recouped so they’re able to host any volunteers willing to help out.

Meanwhile, those in the canyon remain in high spirits, according to Viar, and the staff is looking at the flood as “a chance for rebirth.” The phones are currently out at the Quail Springs facilities, so people interested in volunteering can send inquiries to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to make tax-deductible donations to the recovery effort online, or checks can be mailed to Quail Springs, 35070 Highway 33, Maricopa, CA 93252.

As Quail Springs begins to recover, Viar said the incident keeps things in perspective.

“Our whole mission is about sustainability,” he said, “and this is a further reminder of the power of nature.”

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

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