After early concerns that Wednesday’s wind gusts made it unsafe to fly, a helicopter took off to help deliver supplies to the first installation site for steel “ring nets” in the canyons above Montecito.
Former Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy leads the Partnership for Resilient Communities. The local nonprofit started the project to build the nets in hopes they could slow or prevent damaging mudslides during intense rain storms.
The first installation site is in San Ysidro Canyon, just under a mile north of San Ysidro Ranch.
After successful test installations last week, the helicopter moved supplies weighing several thousand pounds from a nearby staging area to the installation site on Wednesday afternoon. It was able to move all of the supplies in under two hours.
The helicopter goes where roads can’t and doesn’t impact the trail or trees.
“We want to disturb the area as little as possible,” McElroy explained. “[The helicopter] was condition of our permit. It’s a much more expensive way of doing it, but that’s what we were required to do and we’re happy to do so.”
Construction is set to begin Thursday at the first site, though it may take up to a week or more for the first net to be hung. First, anchors are placed on each side of the creek bed before they are connected by wire. The nets themselves are then installed.
As construction proceeds, experts are making sure the nets don’t hurt the environment around them.
“We have a supervising biologist and an engineer that are enforcing the conditions of the permit,” McElroy said.
The plan for now is to install six nets, with Cold Spring, Buena Vista and San Ysidro Canyons receiving two each. The crews are taking them one at a time.
“We want to concentrate,” McElroy said. “We’ve got the time to do it and we want to do it right. So we’re really concentrating on this one and making sure that we do this right.”
But the clock is ticking, as the Partnership’s permit expires in less than 60 days.
“It’s in everybody’s interest that we do this correctly, we do this as rapidly as we can,” McElroy said.