SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Hard to know who will feel impacts from what appears to be an illegal mountain dumping incident linked to a Southern California Edison (SCE) project near Mission Creek above Tunnel Road when the heavy rains come: a handful of endangered species or homes and the Botanic Garden below.
We showed viewers images Monday, sent in by hikers who saw crews the week before, carving out the hillside and widening the road along one section of Inspiration Point Trail. Local environmental experts estimate at least several tons of rocks, dirt and boulders were dumped into the creek below.
A smaller number of rocks came down during recent rains and were also moved by excavator and bulldozer operators hired by SCE.
"And they just pushed them over," said Brian Trauwein, Watershed Program Coodinator and Environmental Analyst with Environmental Defense Center (EDC). "We've seen this many times in the past but usually not on a public trail where people hike all the time, usually in a back remote area where nobody's watching. So, it's unusual to see this type of dumping on this large a scale right in Mission Creek by the public trail."
An official with the City of Santa Barbara said the "Edison project was done without involving the City." Now, the City is involved. And so is the County of Santa Barbara. A county employee confirmed that a stop order was issued by the City.
The California Fish and Wildlife and the EDC are also looking into the damage done.
"Mission Creek is a very sensitive ecological habitat," Trautwein said. "It supports the endangered Southern California Steelhead, one of the most endangered fish in our country, as well as the Two-Striped Garter snake, the Red Legged Frog and the California Newt, all of which are protected, rare species."
SCE's Media Advisor, Mary Ann Milbourn, released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
Southern California Edison Statement on Grading Near Mission Creek
"Storm activity over the last year damaged access roads needed to reach electrical infrastructure for maintenance or repair. SCE anticipated that fixing the access roads would require both brush clearance and minor road work. SCE seeks to minimize the potential environmental impacts of its infrastructure development and maintenance projects and comply with all environmental permitting requirements. Due to an oversight, road maintenance grading was conducted beyond what was planned. This grading was not in accordance with our established processes and resulted in soil moving down the slope and into Mission Creek. SCE will do temporary repairs to stabilize the slope above Mission Creek in advance of forecasted rains. The company will then work with all the appropriate agencies to repair damage and restore the creek. SCE will obtain any required permits to complete the needed work and remediate the area."