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Montecito debris nets could be installed in coming weeks

Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 13, 2019

The Partnership for Resilient Communities, a group of Montecito residents, is making major progress on their ambitious plan to install debris flow nets above Montecito.

So far, the group has managed to crowdfund millions of dollars to order the nets that could help prevent another tragedy.

It all started with a group of Montecito neighbors left wondering what could be done after the deadly 1/9 debris flow.

“We went to Santa Barbara County government and asked if there was a way we could assist. We found a place where we could help and that was maybe doing some research on drainages where the debris flows occurred and going around the world and looking at technologies adapted by communities that regularly experience debris flows,” explained Pat McElroy, Executive Director of the Partnership for Resilient Communities.

The partnership settled on finding ways to install steel nets above Montecito, raking in hundreds of donations in just a few months.

“We needed $5.4 million and we’re at about $4.1 million right now so we’re closing in on what we need to do and we have the confidence now that we’ve ordered the nets and we’re getting closer to the installation,” McElroy said.

The group says they have identified 11 net sites, primarily in Cold Springs Canyon, San Ysidro Canyon and Buena Vista Canyon.

Romero and Hot Springs canyons are considered federal property, so those areas will take more time.

“The federal government was shut down the same day we got our permits from the county so we’re reestablishing talks with the feds for putting nets in those canyons,” McElroy said.

For Santa Barbara County’s Public Works Department, recovery on the creek beds has gone a lot slower.

The department’s deputy director, Tom Fayram, says crews have had to start over on some projects five different times now due to heavy rains.

“We’ve finished off many of the debris basins, a couple of them are more challenging. A lot of large rocks came in on that February 2nd event. Romero debris basin and Santa Monica debris basin work is still going. Good news is, we’ve got the material off to the side so we’re ready for whatever this storm will bring us,” Fayram said.

The Partnership for Resilient Communities says since they are a private entity, they have been able to move a lot faster than the county. They could start construction on the net sites as soon as next week.