Cold Spring debris net
A debris net in Cold Spring Creek, as seen from the hiking trail earlier this year, will stay in place through 2023.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Debris nets in three Montecito creeks will be in place at least through the rest of 2020, since the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department issued a second emergency permit in December.

“P&D granted the emergency permit based on a statutory exemption due to clear and imminent risk to life and property posed by the threat of debris flow events during the upcoming winter rain season,” county staff wrote in a March 10 report to the Board of Supervisors.

The nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities was established in the aftermath of the December 2017 Thomas Fire and the deadly Jan. 9, 2018, flash flooding and debris flows in Montecito. The organization successfully raised money for and secured permits to install six debris-catching nets in Cold Spring, San Ysidro and Buena Vista canyons.

Partnership officials initially planned to install 15 nets in more than just the three creeks, but were limited by funding and property owners’ lack of permission.

The Romero Creek site required approval from the U.S. Forest Service but the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, which owns the potential Hot Springs Creek net sites, rescinded permission for the permit application.

Nets were installed in three creeks during April and May of last year under an emergency permit that required maintenance and eventual removal. A subsequent emergency permit was approved Dec. 19, 2019, leaving the nets in place for another year.

Meanwhile, the partnership is applying for permits to keep the nets installed for two to five additional years after the emergency permit expires, said Pat McElroy, the group’s executive director and a retired Santa Barbara fire chief.

The initial emergency permit had to be approved by the county, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Santa Barbara County provided the $1,042,700 performance security for the project to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife by authorizing a separate Flood Control District fund in August. It’s payable to the state if the Partnership for Resilient Communities does not perform its permit obligations, such as maintaining and removing the nets.

“The (Flood Control) district’s provision of this performance security is subject to the express condition that the district and/or county themselves are not responsible for the completion of any of the partnership’s performance obligations under its permits, including the maintenance and removal of the nets,” Planning and Development Department staff wrote in a report to the Board of Supervisors.

“The partnership is solely responsible for satisfying all project conditions of approval, including maintenance and removal of the nets upon expiration of the project term.”

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at