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Santa Barbara County helping cities, towns adapt to extreme weather

cuyama flood.jpg
Posted at 9:42 PM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 01:53:00-04

Santa Barbara County is looking to help towns and cities better adapt to extreme weather.

Community resiliency centers are a new concept gaining traction in California.

Three of these centers are now coming to Santa Barbara County.

From wildfires and drought to torrential flooding--California is no stranger to a wide range of natural disasters.

To help towns and cities better prepare-- Santa Barbara County has chosen three locations for so-called community resilience hubs.

“All of these sites are located either in or close to low-income areas. For New Cuyama, they’re very remote and rural,” said Garrett Wong, climate program manager for Santa Barbara County.

The centers are meant to provide services like electricity during widespread power outages, or a place to breathe clean air when a region is choked in wildfire smoke.

The hubs will be located at the Franklin Neighborhood Center & Eastside Library in Santa Barbara, Girls Inc. of Carpinteria--a non-profit aimed at empowering young women-- and the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama which fosters economic development in the Cuyama Valley.

“Blue Sky Center--our property was built by arco back in the 1940s as well as the whole town site of New Cuyama for their worker housing, said Executive Director Jack Forinash.

He says they have the infrastructure to build an emergency center with seven buildings totaling 24,000 square feet, an airport and 267 acres.

“We are a small community of around 1,100 people but we really have an ethic here of being able to get things done and to work together to overcome pretty extreme things,” said Forinash. “We’re already looking out for each other as neighbors-- that’s already a high value that Cuyamans have is to look out for each other.”

The centers are being paid for by $25,000 in funding from PG&E and another $200,000 from the California Resilience Challenge.

“We’re aware that the state and federal governments are investing a significant amount of money in local adaptation for climate change and so we do believe that there will be a lot more funding in the future,” said Wong.

The goal is to have more of these centers pop up around other areas such as Lompoc and the Santa Maria Valley.

The county will begin working with organizations hosting the centers as early as next week.

The county says it will take about six months to finalize what the center will look like. There is no exact timeline for when they will open.