Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 11:10 am | Fog/Mist 67º


Captain’s Log: County Staff Work Long Hours to Dump Montecito Mud

Cleaning up the mess from the Montecito mudslide put Santa Barbara County staffers into a period of long hours and no days off. The task was — and still is — large, arduous and ominous.

The No. 1 problem is where to dump massive quantities of sorted mud and debris. Options were limited to sites where convoys of trucks could get into and out of. Local beaches where that could happen include Goleta Beach and Carpinteria.

I recently wrote a Noozhawk column about dumping at Goleta impacting an underprivileged community of subsistence anglers and those points stand.

However, the herculean efforts to get the mud/debris sorted and disposed of warrants kudos for county staff, and that story should be told.

I met with Tom Fayram, county deputy public works director, to learn more about the effort.

Tom’s heart is in his work, and by the number of his staffers who gave up days off and stayed at it for extremely long hours, it is accurate to say we have some dedicated county staffers.

Some of the big aspects of the clearing project are very conservation-oriented in eco-sensitive areas.

An example is dredging the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, which serves as a spawning and rearing area for numerous coastal and ocean critters of land, sea and air. As that precious area began filling with mud, its conservation value diminished rapidly.

The county first went in to dredge with cranes as far as they would reach.

Now, a floating dredge is being considered to resolve the wetlands circulation problem that threatens to harm the area’s ability to serve the critters effectively and efficiently.

Conservationists know we need those wetlands to keep our wildlife thriving.

Other locations available for depositing the mud and debris include the Foothill Landfill near the County Jail, which is an old trash landfill we might want to keep a lid of dirt on. One other spot is near the quarry site at Buellton.

For some of the dump sites, the debris has to be fully sorted, which is a huge undertaking itself. Ventura County Fairgrounds has a large sorting facility onsite.

One reality the county had to face is that no matter where they put that debris, someone was going to be angry. Yet, it had to be done, and 60,000 cubic meters have been deposited on beaches thus far with lots more to go.

The county did follow protocol and obtained permits to dump the debris.

Asked for his thoughts, Fayram said, “We were in a very difficult situation with time constraints and we did the best we could.”

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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