MONTECITO, Calif. - The specialized ring nets of woven metal hanging across some Montecito creeks will be coming out soon.
They were installed after the deadly mudflow event that took 23 lives on January 9, 2018.
The non-profit Project for Resilient Communities worked with the county and private donors to fund and permit the project. It demonstrated the way the water could pass but the boulders, tree stumps, and large debris would be held back.
There was also a consideration for a safe animal passage.
Recently, however, there was a breakdown in any agreement for the county to be part of cleaning out the ring nets going forward.
Published reports in Noozhawk, the Independent, and Montecito Journal have detailed the negotiations taking place and the funding issues linked to the newer style of flood protection.
An open letter from the group's leadership team said there wasn't enough time to continue working with the county on funding or raise the money needed to keep the nets in place.
The cost to clear them out after the rainy season would be an estimated $1.2 million dollars each based on one clean-up operation. That was not supported going forward by the county out of its funds.
Six nets have been installed. They are in San Ysidro, Buena Vista, and Cold Springs Canyons.
Santa Barbara County Public Works maintains a vigorous schedule of clearing creeks and debris basins to have the capacity, the county says, to provide protection from flooding and the loss of lives or property in normal rain years. When extreme rains hit, it is unclear what, if any, system can stop the flow coming out of the hills.
The 2018 debris flow was strong enough to send massive boulders, the size of cars, large distances and into homes. Structures were torn apart and cars were tossed through front windows or up into trees.
Area resident and realtor Josiah Hamilton said, "if anything it I think it helps people feel a sense of security especially the people who were impacted by all of that. It's a shame."
An avid hiker and area resident Bob McMillen took a big picture look at what's happening. "Other than the fact that you have to clean them out and maintain them, and it's expensive, it's a fraction of the cost compared to the damage that would be done ." Hearing that the nets were about to be removed, he said "I think it is a terrible idea to take them out." McMillen watched the NewsChannel coverage during recent storms in the area. He saw, "boulders bouncing out with the nets. What will happen without the nets?"
For those who know the history of the area, to see a damaging storm another day is, as they say, not "if" is will happen, "Of course it's when. Sure that was not a once in a millennium event," said Carl Cadenasso. "So what's the county going to do when all the boulders come in and inundate the town?"
Hamilton said he was aware of all he time and effort that went into the project. from fundraising to permitting. "I am disappointed. I think they are there for a reason. They are put in there because there's a lot of smart people that figured out this is a really great solution and I know a lot of those people took a lot of time and energy and spent a lot of time and money and I think that would all go to waste."
The plan to remove the ring nets is expected to begin immediately. The deadline is November 15. A helicopter is expected to be involved in lifting the nets out.
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