Jameson caretaker residence burned in Thomas Fire
When the Thomas Fire swept into the Jameson Reservoir area on the upper Santa Ynez River in December 2017, it destroyed the caretaker’s cabin and other Montecito Water District buildings.  (Ray Ford / Noozhawk file photo)

Montecito water board members approved a construction contract Tuesday to rebuild the Jameson Lake caretaker’s residence and other structures destroyed by the 2017 Thomas Fire.

The $1.2 million contract went to Schock Contracting Corporation, the only firm that submitted a bid, and most of the funding will be reimbursed by insurance, according to the Montecito Water District.

About $218,000 of the contract will come from district reserves.

Jameson Lake, created by Juncal Dam, is a source of surface water for the district, located in the backcountry northeast of Montecito.

The Thomas Fire destroyed the dam caretaker’s residence — only the chimney survived — as well as the workers quarters, workshop, carport, fuel storage area and woodshed.

The structures (except the woodshed) will be rebuilt and used as residence and maintenance facilities for the caretaker and visiting maintenance personnel, as they were in the past, according to the district. A recreational vehicle has been used as a caretaker’s residence since the fire.

No other contractors submitted a bid for the project, and district staff said contractors it contacted were not interested due to the remote backcountry location, or because they were unavailable, as many of them are busy with other local post-disaster rebuilds.

Juncal Dam burned Thomas Fire

The Thomas Fire burns the landscape surrounding Juncal Dam and Jameson Lake in December 2017, leaving long-lasting impacts of reduced storage capacity and poor water quality.  (Ray Ford / Noozhawk file photo)

Construction will start in November and last about nine months, according to the district.

The Jameson Lake watershed was completely burned by the Thomas Fire, and the ash and infill at the reservoir severely impacted the water quality and storage capacity.

A 2019 survey revised its capacity downwards about 250 acre-feet, district general manager Nick Turner said.

Deliveries from the reservoir have restarted, but are still limited because of the fire-related water quality impacts. The quality issues were helped by an above-average rain year and treatment plant enhancements this year, according to the district.

Jameson Lake filled to capacity and spilled in February for the first time since 2011, and is currently 82-percent full.

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

Jameson Lake spilling

Jameson Lake filled to capacity and spilled over Juncal Dam in February for the first time since 2011.  (Montecito Water District file photo)

A stylized hawk's head on a red background

Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.