Congressman Salud Carbajal has announced a $13.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been awarded to Santa Barbara County Flood Control District to purchase several properties along Randall Road in Montecito and begin construction on a new debris basin near San Ysidro Creek.

Nearly three years ago, Montecito was devastated when massive mud and debris flow ensued following the Thomas Fire overwhelmed debris basin capacity and tore through the community, ultimately killing 23 people.

“It has taken years for our community to rebuild and recover from the Montecito debris flow,” Carbajal said. “We can and should honor the memories of those we lost that horrible day by doing everything possible to prevent future disasters.

“Wildfires and floods, fueled by climate change, are only getting worse over time and we must adapt our infrastructure to reflect our reality.

“The new debris basin will go a long way toward that goal, and I’m proud of the collaborative work we’ve done across local, state and federal governments to secure the funding necessary to turn this project into a reality,” he said.

Santa Barbara County is prone to post-fire debris flows as a result of weakened soil and unstable slopes resulting from wildfires. The proposed debris basin on Randall Road will retain large boulders and debris to protect downstream structures and lives, while protecting fish habitat and passage.

“This debris basin will have more than four times the capacity of the current basin upstream, and will feature design elements to detain more trees and rocks. Because of this, and because it is at the best gradient in the watershed, this is the ideal project for increasing the protection of the community,” said county Supervisor Das Williams.

“I want to thank the families who are selling the land to us and the community supporters who have been advocating every step of the way,” Williams said.

Construction of a new debris basin on Randall Road is estimated to cost $18 million. As a result of the grant approval, FEMA will provide 75% of the cost-share to assist with the project, a total of $13.5 million.

Carbajal who serves as the vice-chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, represents California’s 24th Congressional District, which encompasses Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and part of Ventura County.