Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 11:00 am | Fair 55º


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Montecito Cleanup Efforts Require Transport of Mud to Santa Barbara County Beaches, Other Locales

Trucks depositing sediment from flooding at Goleta and Carpinteria beaches

Sediment from the Montecito flooding cleanup is being deposited in several locations, including off Via Chaparral in the Santa Barbara foothills, above, and on beaches in Goleta and Carpinteria. Click to view larger
Sediment from the Montecito flooding cleanup is being deposited in several locations, including off Via Chaparral in the Santa Barbara foothills, above, and on beaches in Goleta and Carpinteria. (Martha Hassenplug photo)

Efforts are underway to dredge excessive mud and sediment left by this week’s flash flooding and dump it at disposal sites, including some Santa Barbara County beaches.

Piles of mud, boulders and water remain sitting on roadways, basins and the freeway lanes in both directions below a stretch of Highway 101 through Montecito after heavy rains over the Thomas Fire burn scar caused Tuesday morning’s flooding and mudslides. 

Tom Fayram, water resources manager for the county, said Friday the storm material is being hauled to multiple sites, including Goleta Beach Park, Carpinteria State Beach at the end of Ash Avenue, the county-owned foothill landfill, and other Caltrans operated areas.

The Santa Barbara County Flood Control District obtained emergency permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Coastal Commission to place sediment on local beaches.

Current permits allow up to 300,000 cubic yards of sediment to be placed into the surf zone at Goleta Beach and Carpinteria Beach, according to the county.

“This material has to be cleared off,” Fayram said. “We have to get the highway open. We are going to have hundreds of trucks in this area, and we have little time to get this done. We will use every resource we can to restore Montecito.”

The sediment is wet or dry dirt or mud, and it does not contain rocks, debris or vegetation, according to a news release.

As of Friday afternoon, about 800 cubic yards had been transported to Goleta Beach, and approximately 900 cubic yards has been moved to Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve. 

Sediment transported to Carpinteria Beach is primarily coming from Franklin Creek and Santa Monica Creek within the marsh.  

A truck dumps sediment of Via Chaparral in the Santa Barbara foothills. Click to view larger
A truck dumps sediment of Via Chaparral in the Santa Barbara foothills. (Martha Hassenplug photo)

“The amount of sediment transported to the beaches is of less quantity than the level of sediment that naturally flows through the drainage system during a rainfall event,” according to a news release. 

County Flood Control personnel are on location and inspecting materials.  

Crews are instructed to refuse any load containing unpermitted material.  

Rocks and other sediment are being hand-picked and set aside for disposal.  

Both Goleta Beach and Carpinteria Beach have been used for routine and emergency sediment placement previously.

Emergency permits issued do not require testing for the operation.  

County Public Health Department officials will continue to test ocean waters and will act accordingly.

Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said the department is “not announcing exact locations so we can use these necessary and limited locations most expediently for the overall public benefit. We are working with all agencies in a coordinated effort in responding to this incident.”

Hillary Hauser, executive director of the environmental group Heal the Ocean, issued a statement Friday on the group's Facebook page seeming to support the effort.

It reads in part, "Heal the Ocean asks all ocean lovers and surfers (who should accept the fact they shouldn’t get into the water right now) to support the agencies working hard to get us out of this mess." 

Martha Hassenplug, a Rancho Santa Barbara resident who has been living in Santa Barbara County for 15 years, said she saw “rows and rows” of trucks disposing mud Friday morning near Via Chaparral, just above Cathedral Oaks in Santa Barbara. 

“There’s usually gravel in the fenced area,” Hassenplug said. “It’s up on a hillside. The mud trucks are dumping some of it in that little area — they are doing it day and night. They are not covering it, and putting huge piles of sludge. It’s drying out, and it’s dusty. We are only asking best practices for the hazardous waste.” 

Highway 101 through Montecito has been shut down since Tuesday’s flash flooding, and Caltrans officials said Friday that “the estimated opening date of Monday, Jan. 15, is being rescinded and the estimated opening is unknown.”

The freeway has been shut since Tuesday at Milpas Street on the southbound side and Highway 150 on the northbound side.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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.

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