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Santa Barbara County Pushes Forward with EIR for New Montecito Debris Basin

Project proposed for San Ysidro Creek near Randall Road and Highway 192, an area hit hard by the Jan. 9, 2018, debris flows

Crews clearing land near Randall Road and 192 in Montecito Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County is starting the environmental review process for a proposed debris basin along San Ysidro Creek in Montecito, although it has not yet purchased the properties.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Plans for a new Montecito debris basin are starting the environmental review process, although Santa Barbara County has not yet purchased the properties for the site or secured all of the needed funding.

The debris basin is planned for San Ysidro Creek near Randall Road and Highway 192, an area hit hard by the Jan. 9, 2018, debris flows.

More than 100 homes were destroyed and damaged, and 23 residents were killed in the disaster, including four who lived along San Ysidro Creek: Randall Road residents Mark and Caroline Montgomery, Glen Oaks Drive resident Rebecca Riskin, and East Valley Road resident Josephine Gower.

The county is negotiating with property owners to purchase seven Randall Road parcels and one on the 1700 block of East Valley Road.

The county Flood Control and Water Conservation District issued a notice of preparation of an environmental impact report for the project on Feb. 14, which started a 30-day public comment period on the scope of review.

Deputy Public Works Director Tom Fayram said the county has not fully funded the project, but has applied for grants through the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and has interested private donors.

He had no estimate for the property acquisition costs, but said the rough construction estimate is $8 million.

The county applied for $19 million in FEMA grant money, with a $6 million match in county funds. 

A map shows the proposed location of a new debris basin along San Ysidro Creek in Montecito. Click to view larger
A map shows the proposed location of a new debris basin along San Ysidro Creek in Montecito.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

“I think starting the EIR process without having all the funding clearly identified is a little bit of a risk, but I think it’s worth it in this case,” Fayram said, noting community support for the project and possible grant funding.

The project could take five or six years to develop if the county did one step at a time, waiting for property acquisition before environmental review, he said.

“We’re trying to do as much of it in parallel as we can,” he said.

He previously said the site would be one of the biggest debris basins in Montecito if the county acquires all the property it wants, and it is in a perfect location with easy access for trucks clearing debris after storms. 

Once a draft EIR is developed, which will take about a year, the next steps are to make 30-percent construction plans, then final design and getting permits, Fayram said.

Written comments on the EIR preparation can be turned in through March 15, and sent by mail to:

ATTN Randall Road NOP

Andrew Raaf

Santa Barbara County Flood Control District

A map shows the proposed location of a new debris basin along San Ysidro Creek in Montecito. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County is negotiating to purchase eight parcels to use as the site for a new debris basin. (Santa Barbara County photo)

130 East Victoria St., Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

The comments should focus on potentially significant environmental impacts that should be studied in the EIR, ways to minimize those impacts, and potential project alternatives, according to the notice of preparation. Respondents should also include their name, and the name of their agency or organization, if applicable, according to the notice of preparation. 

The environmental impact report will study project impacts including aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, and noise.

The project description includes an excavated basin and a possible spillway to divert high flows or debris into the basin, “while the central stream-channel would be configured as a natural creek channel through the main flow-line of San Ysidro Creek, retaining creek function and habitat similar to the surrounding watershed,” according to the notice of preparation.

“Fish-passage components and natural habitat features would be incorporated as needed to protect habitat for native species. Appurtenant structures such as retaining walls, access ramps, fencing, debris racks, grading, landscaping/screening, walking trails, and vehicle parking, are also considered as part of the project design to be evaluated in the EIR.”

Site maintenance would require heavy equipment and truck trips to remove debris after storms, as well as periodic maintenance and repairs, similar to the other county debris basins.

Click here to read the Notice of Preparation for the Environmental Impact Report. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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.

Men walking on Randall Road in Montecito Click to view larger
Curtis Skene, left, and Brian MacDonald walk past one of the six out of seven homes that were destroyed on Randall Road during the Jan. 9, 2018 debris flow. MacDonald lost his home on Randall Road, which parallels San Ysidro Creek, and Skene’s home on East Valley Lane was damaged.  (Melinda Burns photo)

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