Pixel Tracker

Monday, March 18 , 2019, 3:55 pm | A Few Clouds 67º

 
 
 
 

County Crews, Corps of Engineers Begin Clearing Clogged Montecito Creeks

Many are filled with boulders, mud and debris that blasted out of the fire-denuded foothills during the deadly Jan. 9 storm

A section of creek in Montecito is full of boulders following the Jan. 9 flooding and mud and debris flows. Santa Barbara County crews and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are beginning work this week on clearing out key stretches of the creeks so they can better handle future downpours. Click to view larger
A section of creek in Montecito is full of boulders following the Jan. 9 flooding and mud and debris flows. Santa Barbara County crews and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are beginning work this week on clearing out key stretches of the creeks so they can better handle future downpours. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo)

The herculean task of getting Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria in better shape to weather significant storm runoff after last month’s devastating flooding and debris flows will enter a new phase this week, according to Santa Barbara County flood control officials.

Since shortly after the intense Jan. 9 deluge that hit the Thomas Fire burn area, sending deadly rivers of water, mud and debris into populated areas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been spearheading an effort to clean out overflowing debris dams in the foothills.

That’s a crucial step in preparing the area to handle the next big storm.

But of equal concern to county flood control officials is the condition of many of the area's creeks, which are clogged with boulders, mud and debris that blasted out of the fire-denuded foothills and mountains.

While work will continue on the county’s 13 debris basins — which were still nearly two-thirds full as of Friday — the county this week will team up with the Corps of Engineers to begin clearing the most critical reaches of several local creeks, Tom Fayram, deputy county public works director, told Noozhawk.

The focus of the work will be clogged sections of Montecito, Hot Springs, Arroyo Paredon, Romero and Toro creeks, Fayram said.

“Looking at the channels downstream and the reduced capacity now, the creek can’t take water flow,” Fayram said in a recent interview. “Whereas before that, if we had water flow, it would take it. Now it can’t ...

"The risk is if we get a couple-inch rainfall, the water that will come off the hillsides will be there, and so we could have flooding outside of the creek banks again.”

County personnel, with their extensive local knowledge, will be responsible for digging the material out of the creeks, Fayram said. It then will be loaded onto trucks provided by the Corps of Engineers, which also will take care of disposal.

Boulders line both sides of a narrow channel through Montecito Creek in this view upstream from the 300 block of Hot Springs Road in Montecito. Click to view larger
Boulders line both sides of a narrow channel through Montecito Creek in this view upstream from the 300 block of Hot Springs Road in Montecito. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo)

Fayram said the effort is expected to take “at least a month, maybe longer.”

Caltrans will be doing similar work on parts of San Ysidro Creek, he added.

Current estimates are that the cost of the Corps of Engineers work in the debris basins and on the creeks will total $110 million, Fayram said.

“The important thing about that is that’s $110 million we (the county) would otherwise have had to have spent and been reimbursed for,” Fayram said. “That wouldn’t work.”

Last month’s mud and debris flows claimed 23 lives, injured more than two dozen people, destroyed and damaged hundreds of homes, forced thousands to evacuate, and disrupted life in Montecito for weeks.

Little to no rain has fallen since, allowing work on digging out to proceed relatively unabated.

But officials know that Santa Barbara County is still in the middle of its rainy season, and another major storm in the next several weeks is still a possibility.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >