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New Montecito ring nets now facing stormy test

Ring nets
KEYT photo
Ring nets now installed in Montecito creeks may reduce the risk to homes and residents downstream during large storms. (KEYT photo)

MONTECITO, Calif. - Designed to hold back debris and rocks during most storms, the newly installed Montecito ring nets are getting a test in critical areas that sit below the Thomas fire burn zone.

Six nets are in place as part of a sweeping plan to protect Montecito homes were devastating impacts and 23 deaths took place on January 9, 2018. That was one month after the Thomas fire which wiped out ground cover on the steep local hills from Ventura County to Santa Barbara.

Former Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy is leading the Partnership for Resilient Communities.

He personally walked two creeks Tuesday morning to see how the ring nets looked following a mild flow of rain since last week. No problems were reported and the creeks are hardly flowing.

Inspections will be regular to monitor the nets and to create a report.

"We're going to be up there every time just making sure," said McElroy.

The creeks are in San Ysidro, Buena Vista, and Cold Springs Canyons.

Geologists are closely watching the hills and assessing the debris and boulders that still pose a concern depending on the type of storms ahead. 

A collaboration  with government agencies took place for months to get permits and grants in place to tie in with community donations specifically for the nets to become a reality in time to make a difference in a very fragile area. The results of the work will be tracked.

"We want to show the current condition of the nets.  If there is a debris buildup behind them.  Is the space below the net still open for animals?" said McElroy. The area is a sensitive habitat for wildlife.


"If they get clogged up it is our responsibility to create a fish passage. We won't completely clean everything out until rainy season ends," he said.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation sees the benefits of these nets and a grant request has been made to help with the clearing costs.

The November Getty Fire in Los Angeles County burned  in very steep near the museum. The terrain now poses a similar landslide and mudflow issue there and in nearby Brentwood.
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A version of the  Montecito ring net plan is being developed for an immediate installation. The research and cost analysis work done in Montecito is being shared to those in and around the Getty so they can make an informed decision.

"We wanted to share this with anyone else that had the same problem. So other people wouldn't have to go through what this community went through. We have been sending them links to all of our material so they can take a look at it," said McElroy. "Our contractors and one of our engineers are down there right now and they are putting in rockfall barriers and k-rail. They are putting in debris nets as soon as next week."

The plan is to have the nets in place before large storms head in with the potential to cause mudslides in the fire zone. "They are trying to get ahead of a potential debris problem instead reacting to one afterwards," said McElroy.

For more information go to: https://partnershipsb.org/home

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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