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City of Lompoc wants to pursue a second cleanup of the riverbed

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 16, 2021

The City of Lompoc is pursuing what they are calling a second large-scale cleanup of the Santa Ynez Riverbed.

It’s been about two years since the city's efforts to clean up the Santa Ynez Riverbed. Due to the magnitude of garbage and homeless encampments, that cleanup came with a price tag of about a half-million dollars.

Now Mayor Jenelle Osborne says the riverbed needs to be addressed once again due to concerns over possible city water contamination from hazardous waste.

"It's a water issue but it's been complicated by the homeless residents in the riverbed and trying to respect that part of it and do all the proper things is part of what cost us so much,” Osborne said.

She adds some funds have already been set aside for another cleanup with other money coming from the water utility budget but says the long-term goal of maintaining the riverbed after cleanup is something that should have happened two years ago.

“The failing of the last budget cycle was setting aside money for maintenance. Instead, we spent a lot of time pointing fingers saying who should repay us and what we should've said is how do we maintain this while we seek additional support and partners,” Osborne said.

People living in the riverbed call it home.

"People come and go in this area. A lot of times it is homeless people that have no other place to go to and so they end up here,” said Alan Lee Garrett who currently lives in the riverbed.

That's something Osborne says she recognizes and that needs to be solved to avoid the problem from recurring.

It's also why she and the city council are seeking help from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

"Working with the county because they fund public health issues, mental health issues, housing issues and you know, they get the funding for continuing care regarding homelessness,” Osborne said.

In the coming weeks, conversations will begin with the county to come up with a long-term rather than a short-term solution and avoid having to do this cleanup again in the future.

Lompoc city officials say during the first big riverbed cleanup two years ago about 1 million pounds of garbage was cleared away. They say they hope that won't be the case this time around.