Randall Road site plan
Santa Barbara County plans to have a draft environmental impact report on the Randall Road debris basin ready next summer, according to Flood Control officials.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

Environmental review for a new Montecito debris basin will be finished next year, according to Santa Barbara County Flood Control, which held a workshop on the project Monday night. 

The county does not have all the funding necessary for the proposed debris basin on Randall Road and Highway 192, at San Ysidro Creek, but has hired project design and environmental review process consultants, said Tom Fayram, deputy public works director.

They’ve also applied for all the required permits to build it, he said. 

“We have gone all in,” Fayram told community members. “You have the commitment from us to do everything in our power to get this done.”

The county estimates the debris basin will cost $20 million, with construction costs of $5 million to $8 million. Flood Control hasn’t yet heard back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its grant applications, Fayram said. 

If successful, the federal government will cover 75 percent of the project and “locals” will cover 25-percent of the costs, according to Flood Control engineering manager Jon Frye.

The county is “actively chasing funding dollars,” Fayram said.

Santa Barbara County has purchased one of the eight Randall Road properties necessary for the project, and the design is 30-percent completed, Frye said. 

Randall Road debris basin parcels map

Santa Barbara County is negotiating to purchase eight parcels in Montecito to use as the site for a new debris basin along San Ysidro Creek. (Santa Barbara County photo)

Construction is anticipated to begin in summer 2021, he said.

“We feel it’s doable,” Frye said, adding, “We are pursuing every aspect of this project as if we have got funding in hand.”

A draft release of the environmental impact report will be finished in summer 2020, said Maureen Spencer, water resources environmental services manager.

The Randall Road debris basin would be built on more than 8 acres of property along San Ysidro Creek, an area that was significantly damaged in the catastrophic Jan. 9, 2018, debris flows.

The debris flows destroyed several homes along the 1700 block of East Valley Road and Randall Road, and four of the 23 Montecito residents killed in the disaster lived along San Ysidro Creek.

Adding a basin to that area could reduce debris flow impacts, according to the county.

It isn’t going to “fix everything that’s going on in the watershed, but we do see an opportunity with the funding and land available to have a positive impact within this watershed and downstream areas,” said Leslie Brooks, a project manager with the Walnut Creek-based company designing the project, WRECO.

Project challenges include easements around the site, existing utilities, fire and maintenance access, and requirements for fish passage, she said. 

A debris basin on that site could provide additional benefits of open space and hiking access, she added.

Montecito debris flow survivor Curtis Skene is the one who first envisioned a debris basin project on Randall Road. His home located below Randall Road was destroyed on Jan. 9, 2018, and he approached the surrounding neighbors about the idea.

“To reach this point is huge,” Skene said of the project.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.