On the Water Front

by Bob Hazard

Desalination Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Santa Barbara mayor Cathy Murillowas able to take a well-deserved bow last week as she and Josh Haggmark, City Water Resources manager; Cathy Taylor, Water Systems manager; Randy Rowseand other civic leaders celebrated the one-year anniversary of the reopening of the City’s Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant. All hailed the addition of desalinated water as a reliable water source added to the City’s diverse water portfolio.

Impressively, the rehabbed desalination plant is currently producing 3 million gallons of drinking water per day, or 30% of the City’s water supply, some 3,125 acre-feet per year (AFY) of “ocean to tap” water.

On hand, and available for interviews, was Gilad Cohen, CEO of IDE Americas, designer, builder, and operator of the local desal plant. IDE Americas also designed and was part of the construction team that built the new 50-million-gallons-per-day Poseidon Water desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, which produces desalinated water for San Diego County. IDE also built three desalination plants in Israel, enabling that desert country to be the only country in the Middle East to “go green.”

In 2014, Israel’s desalination programs produced roughly 35% of Israel’s drinking water. By June 2015, roughly 50% of Israel’s overall water sources came from desalination. By 2050, that percentage of desalinated water is projected to reach 70%.

The Israeli record should serve as a guidepost for coastal California, which is still clinging to an increasingly unreliable, antiquated 1950s technology of pumping vanishing northern snowpack from the High Sierras, conveyed through Lake Orville to the Sacramento Delta; then pumped through 660 miles of canals and pipelines to a complex of regulating reservoirs.

How energy-efficient is that? Should coastal urban areas deprive farmers and inland cities of needed state water?

History of Desalination

Funded jointly by the City of Santa Barbara, the Montecito Water District and the Goleta Water District, the original desalination plant, finished in 1991 at a cost of $34 million, had a capacity of 7,500 AFY of desalinated water, more than twice the production capacity of the current plant.

The Montecito Water District had an entitlement of 1,250 AFY; the Goleta Water District had an entitlement of 3,069 AFY, while the City had entitlement to 3,181 AFY. Costs were shared proportionately.

The original desalination plant operated for three months between March and June 1992, before abundant rainfall led to placing the plant into standby mode. On October 15, 1996, the California Coastal Commission issued a Coastal Development Permit to the City for permanent desalination facilities up to a maximum capacity of 10,000 AFY.

Foolishly, Montecito and Goleta failed to renew their five-year contract for water, preferring not to incur modest costs for permanent permits and standby maintenance charges.

In July 2015, faced with still another long-term drought, the city council voted unanimously to reactivate the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant. In May 2017, after start-up testing, the City began distributing desalinated water into the City’s water system.

Pass the Water; Skip the Salt

The updated desalination plant supplies a new source of potable water to City residents for household use, plus the preservation of trees and plants, regardless of rainfall or drought, thanks to the availability of the largest reservoir on the planet, the Pacific Ocean, right at our doorstep, containing a third of all the water on Earth.

Drawing a tiny amount of water from the vast Pacific Ocean reservoir makes more ecological sense than building new surface reservoirs inland at an estimated cost of a billion dollars each, and then attaching them to the overloaded State Water System, or spending $22 billion for the governor’s pet Twin Tunnels project.

Montecito Participation

Neither the City nor the Montecito Water District (MWD) is in a position to discuss the details of negotiations at this time, as they work toward a water purchase agreement. However, many of the details are already public knowledge.

Montecito is seeking the City’s commitment to provide a 50-year supply of 1,250 AFY from the City, with the City retaining the discretion to supply Montecito with State Water, imported water, Cachuma or Gibraltar water, groundwater, and, of course, desal.

The City uses approximately 10,000 AFY of water. Pre-drought usage was approximately 14,000 AFY. The Montecito Water District currently uses approximately 4,000 AFY. Pre-drought usage was approximately 6,500 AFY.

Water Projections

With the election of Floyd Wicksand Tobe Ploughto the Montecito Water Board in November 2016, shared development expense agreements were signed, and good-faith negotiations began between professional engineers on both sides to develop costs and terms for a water agreement with the City.

Under current permits, the City is allowed to nearly triple its desalination plant capacity from 3,125 AFY up to 10,000 AFY. The intake system has already been sized to accommodate the 10,000 AFY; the modular seawater treatment process is expandable, as needed, by adding additional trains; the outflow system to carry the desalinated water from the seaside plant up to the Mission for highline City users, and then on to the Cater Water Treatment Plant for connection to the South Coast Conduit, is in final design.

Desalination Plant Cost

Capital costs to reactivate the desalination plant were $72 million, financed over 20 years at a super-low 1.6% interest rate, which equates to $4.2 million in annual debt service.

A $10 million state grant was awarded to the City in the spring of 2018 by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) from the $7.5 billion in Prop 1 state funding passed by the voters in November 2014 to improve California’s water reliability.

Annual operating costs are estimated to be about $4.1 million at full production. Ralph Felix, IDE America’s plant manager, noted that the new desal plant is so automated that it only requires a staff of 12 people for 24/7 operation. Amazingly, the plant can be monitored from a home laptop, but at least two operators are present on each shift for contingencies.

 

Seawater Intake System

Seawater enters the City’s desalination plant from 2,500 feet offshore, passing through wedge wire screens made of a durable copper-nickel alloy that have one-millimeter openings to minimize marine life entrapment and impingement. The one-millimeter openings are the size of a paper clip.

Treatment of Intake Water

A combination of intake screens, static mixers, gravity filters, and RO filters remove suspended solids. The system removes sediment, bacteria, viruses, and minerals (including salt).

The guts of the plant are the salt-removing modular reverse osmosis (RV) membrane trains that process the sea water. High-pressure pumps push the water through semi-permeable membranes at 850 pounds per square inch to remove salt and dissolved minerals and other impurities. Outflows include: 1) desalted water for further treatment and 2) concentrated brine.

Brine Treatment

The brine leaving the plant is roughly twice as salty as normal seawater, so it is diluted with a small portion of the City’s treated wastewater before being discharged back into the ocean 1½ miles offshore.

Mineralization & Outflow

The desalted water goes through a further disinfection, re-mineralization, and chlorination process. For use in the northern tier of the City, and for possible use in Montecito, the desalinated water can be pumped to the Cater Water Treatment plant, allowing MWD to receive its share of treated Cachuma water, state water, or desal water from the City through the South Coast Conduit.

Recycling Wastewater

The City has recently completed a potable reuse feasibility study for expanded use of recycled water. Advanced treatment of recycled water could allow for either indirect potable use through injection into its groundwater basin, or direct potable reuse when that use is permitted by California law.

Environmentally Responsible

The reactivated plant uses 40% less energy than the original design, reducing power demand and carbon footprint. Some residents question whether a sub-surface intake system should be required to replace the current open ocean intake system. The City conducted a lengthy study that concluded that sub-surface intakes are not feasible at this time for multiple reasons, among which are negative impacts to sensitive habitats in Mission Lagoon and unproven technology.

Potential Benefits

MWD believes that a water purchase agreement, with no ownership and no residual value by MWD, creates a major revenue stream for the City, allowing it to reduce both its current plant capital costs and operating cost loads on City ratepayers.

In addition, MWD believes that adding a new train to the desal plant to process an additional 2,500 AFY of desalinated water, at the City’s option, not only drops the unit production cost for both parties, but it blunts City ratepayer criticism that the City is providing its own water to benefit Montecito.

Win-Win negotiations always seem to work best in the rare instances that they can be negotiated and agreed to by rational potential partners.

Montecito Update

by Kelly Mahan

Roundabout Meeting Next Week

Next Wednesday, August 29, Montecito residents are encouraged to attend a community meeting and open house to learn more about two roundabouts that are slated to be built in Montecito.

The more widely discussed roundabout project is slated for the corner of Olive Mill Road and Coast Village Road, and will include a northbound exit and southbound entrance to Highway 101. The lesser-known project, which many Hedgerow neighbors have voiced concern about, places a roundabout at the corner of San Ysidro Road and North Jameson Lane, and includes a northbound entrance and southbound exit from Highway 101. The two projects are being considered “parallel projects” to the Highway 101 widening.

Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) has been working closely with staff from both the City of Santa Barbara and County of Santa Barbara to continue progress on these projects, and while the Olive Mill roundabout has been in the works since that time, the new roundabout at San Ysidro Road was only deemed necessary after it was determined the intersection at San Ysidro and North Jameson fell short on meeting the level of service required by the County. A number of alternatives were considered for both sides of the San Ysidro Road bridge, including roundabouts at both intersections on San Ysidro (one near the Miramar and one at North Jameson), as well as alternatives showing various combinations of all-way stops, traffic lights, and roundabouts.

The recommendation of evaluators was a combination of a roundabout at the north intersections and all-way-stop-control at the south intersections. According to County reps, this configuration meets County and Montecito Community Plan level of service requirements, addresses potential backups on the freeway off-ramps, provides continuity to the regional frontage road system with Olive Mill and Coast Village Road, minimizes footprint and impacts, and improves pedestrian and bicycle access through the interchange.

Both roundabouts are in the preliminary design phase with no firm dates on design completion or construction.

The Community Meeting and Open House is scheduled for Wednesday, August 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at Chase Palm Park Center, 236 E. Cabrillo Blvd. For more information about the meeting, contact Walter Rubalcava, County Project manager, at Wrebalc@cosbpw.net.

Candidates Announced for November Election

Earlier this week, five local residents announced their candidacy for November’s upcoming election in which Montecito residents will be asked to fill three seats on the Montecito Water District (MWD) Board of Directors and two seats on the Montecito Sanitary District (MSD) Board of Directors. Calling themselves “the Montecito and Summerland Water Security Team,” the slate of candidates includes Woody Barrettand Dana Newquist(both running for MSD), and Cori Hayman, Ken Coates, and Brian Goebel(all three running for MWD).

The slate of candidates has built a platform on several key points, including major improvements in water infrastructure and wastewater management strategies, collaboration between local water districts including the Montecito Sanitary District and the Summerland Sanitary District and between the Montecito Water District and Montecito Sanitary District, conservation, recycled water, and groundwater management.

According to the candidates, the current drought crisis warrants support of major improvements in water infrastructure and wastewater management strategies. “Water security focuses on diversification or our water portfolio, and that means smartly harvesting and managing every drop of water on this side of the mountain,” said Coates, the head of the Water Security Team. “Water diversification includes pursuing an agreement with the City of Santa Barbara for desalinated water, a process that has progressed slowly because of missteps in the past. Cooperation here can be beneficial both to the City with lower costs and provide water security for the Montecito and Summerland communities. The current plan relies too much on imported state water, leaving the community at risk, especially during a record-breaking drought,” he said.

The Montecito Water District also serves Summerland, and Goebel, a candidate for the MWD, has close ties to both communities and noted the Summerland Sanitary District is exploring the idea of using recycled water to recharge groundwater. “Regional cooperation between agencies is key to ensuring water security,” he said.

The group also sees a major opportunity in recycled water. “Recycled water offers huge potential for not just landscaping needs, but can also be treated sufficiently to a level where it could be used to recharge groundwater supplies, which means a guaranteed built-in local supply,” said Barrett, a professional geologist and small business owner who raised his children in Montecito. He questions the current Board of the Sanitary District’s plan to build a new $3,500,000 building for four employees of the district. “I believe the money would be better spent on state-of-the-art equipment to clean the wastewater to a higher level, making it available to indirect potable use as recycled water for landscaping and/or groundwater recharge.”

“No one should confuse the pilot project currently planned by the Montecito Sanitary District as actual support for recycled water. It’s a small-scope, stand-alone project that will only water the district’s own lawn,” said Newquist, a former Montecito Fire Protection District director, running for the Sanitary District. “We waste up to 500,000 gallons of water a day by dumping partially treated sewage water just offshore at Butterfly Beach. During a prolonged, severe drought, this is hardly environmentally friendly. We can recycle that water, preserve our beautiful environmental resources, and bolster our water supply.”

The group says groundwater management is key to ensuring a stable water supply. “Groundwater is a key component of our water portfolio supply, and it’s the only reliable local supply. We must protect our groundwater basin. We now have a great opportunity to recharge it with ‘gold standard’ recycled water that has been subjected to the highest level of cleaning. This would help make well-owners less vulnerable to groundwater depletion,” said Hayman, who is running for MWD’s Board. Hayman has a background in regulatory law and has been an active community advocate as a board member on the Montecito Association.

The slate of candidates sees the future of water security for the area in diversifying the current water supply portfolio by accelerating the desalination agreement timeline with the City of Santa Barbara, pursuing groundwater management and recharge by implementing recycled water on a significant scale, conservation, and partnering with neighboring agencies.

“We are in a new era where very drop of water counts,” said Coates. “Continued severe drought and the vulnerability we experienced after the debris flow demand that we pursue a resilient, secure water future for Montecito and Summerland. The time for us to build the water and sanitary districts of the future is now.”

The candidates will vie for two seats on the Montecito Sanitary District Board currently held by incumbents Judy Ishkanianand Bob Williams. Three seats are up for grabs at Montecito Water District; incumbent Dick Shaikewitz is running for re-election. Directors Doug Morganand Sam Fryeare stepping down from the board as their terms are coming to a close.

We’ll have much more on the elections as they approach.

Sheriff’s Blotter

Friday, 17 August, 2 pm– Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area of Hot Springs Trailhead on a report of a suspicious vehicle that was parked near the trailhead since August 13. The solo male occupant was last seen walking up the trailhead. The vehicle was registered to Wayne Habell, of Newhall, who was listed as an at-risk missing person out of Los Angeles County.

Sheriff’s deputies, the Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit and Santa Barbara Search and Rescue team members responded and began an extensive search of the area. The search teams were unable to locate Mr. Habell due to darkness, and the search was called off until the morning.

At 6 pm on August 18, a male decedent was located in the canyon. The body was taken to the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office for further investigation. The identity of the decedent was later determined to be 43-year-old Wayne Stuart Habell. The cause and manner of death was a suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Habell was a 13-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and had gone missing earlier in the week.

 

Let’s Block the Rocks… Now

Choke Points like this one caused major downstream damage (photo by Mike Eliason SBC Fire)

The Montecito community faces a difficult 2018-2019 winter season.If we get too little rain,we will return to drought worries; too much rainand Montecito residents face evacuation and the possibility of additional mud and rock flows. Of the two perils – severe drought versus debris flow – the more pressing danger is the fear of a repeat performance of the January 9 debris flow that destroyed or damaged 14% of the residential housing in Montecito.

Present Condition of the Terrain above Montecito

Anyone now hiking Montecito’s trails will confirm that the supply of boulders hanging above our heads today is at least equivalent to, if not greater than, the quantity of boulders and debris that descended upon our sleeping community on January 9. Regeneration ofstabilizing vegetation on the mountain in 2018 has been disappointing, due to insufficient water and fire-scorched earth. Hydro-mulching to encourage growth was deemed inadvisable because of the steepness of the slopes. The danger of repeat floods and debris flows remains a community threat for at least the next two to four years.

The National Weather Service has forecast a 65% chance of an El Niño weather pattern this fall and a 70% chance in the winter. Generally, but not always, El Niño weather patterns result in warmer temperatures and higher than average rainfall.

The Partnership for Resilient Communities

The Partnership for Resilient Communities (PFRC) is a Montecito-based, non-profit 501(c)(3) formed to collaborate with the County of Santa Barbara in a public/private partnership to do whatever it takes to avoid a repeat of the January 9 destruction.

PFRC provides a seat at the table for Montecito community leaders to cooperatively offer local and expert opinion as input to the County Recovery Plan. PFRC’s partnership with cash-strapped Santa Barbara County helps to moderate the danger from future natural disasters by expanding the bandwidth of talent and money available to the County.

The all-volunteer team of local residents and founders of the Partnership for Resilient Communities includes Gwyn Lurie, Brett Matthews, Les Firestein, Alixe Mattingly, Pat McElroy, Ron Pulice, Mary Rose,and Joe Cole.

Accomplishments to Date

Previous efforts of the PFRC include examining other similarly distressed communities in Switzerland and Japan; meeting with geologists and technology experts; funding of David Fukutomi, former deputy director of the California Office of Emergency Services (OEM), as a bridge between Montecito and County CEO, Mona Miyasato; identifying “best practices” by direct engagement withJames Lee Witt, former head of FEMA; Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, incident commander for Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast Oil Spill; and consultation withTom Dunne, Geomorphology, Hydrology Ph.D., Geography at the UCSB Bren School to understand local debris flow hazard areas and risk assessment.

Research in Switzerland led the PFRC team to Dr. William F. Kane, Ph.D., and president of Kane GeoTech, Inc. based in Stockton, California. The firm specializes in difficult geotechnical solutions to slope stability, debris flow, rock slides, avalanches, and instrumentation technology and manufacturing of slope monitoring systems. GeoTech has partnered with European barrier manufacturer GeoBrugg, to build high-tensile steel nets that snare dangerous debris before it damages homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. Successful GeoBrugg nets have been installed in Switzerland, Washington state, New Mexico, Camarillo, California, and other locations throughout the world.

Canyon Ring Nets

The current “hot project” for the PFRC team is the installation on private property of one or more testbed steel netting systems by December 2018 before the onset of winter storms. The December installation time-frame gives the partnership fewer than five months to negotiate contracts with local landowners, including liability protections; navigate through the laborious Santa Barbara County permitting process; and most importantly solicit private funding from Montecito donors to meet the December 2018 installation timetable. Use of a “disaster emergency declaration” may limit the need for CEQA environmental reviews, which could addyears,not months, to project approval status.

Debris nets are installed in potential debris flow areas in Camarillo Springs (photo courtesy of KANE GeoTech, Inc.)

Funding Requirements

An initial $3.5 million private funding effort is needed to offset the cost to install 18 ring nets in five Montecito canyons by December: Buena Vista Creek; San Ysidro Creek Debris Basin (present capacity 11,000 cubic yards); Cold Springs Creek Debris Basin (present capacity 13,000 cubic yards); Montecito Creek Basin (present capacity 7,000 cubic yards); and Romero Creek Debris Basin (present capacity 15,570 cubic yards).

The new Ring Nets are intended to double the catching capacity of each debris basin by capturing loose boulders, downed trees, and other debris that can clog downstream culverts and bridges creating prodigious overflows. Additional costs would include $700,000 for advanced monitoring systems for all five canyons; $700,000; for engineering plans and permits; and $500,000 for consulting expertise, for a total of $5.4 million, which needs to be raised for this 2018 project.

An additional 27 new Ring Nets would be installed in 2019, adding another 275,000 cubic yards of capacity for boulder and debris retention. Added nets would be installed in the Toro Canyon Upper West Debris Basin (present capacity 8,750 cubic yards); the Toro Canyon Lower West Debris Basin (present capacity 19,545 cubic yards); and the Arroyo Paredon Debris Basin (present capacity 8,360 cubic yards). Hydro-mulching to stimulate hillside vegetation growth would be an additional added expense.

It is hoped that some of the $5.4 million raised in private contributions can be recovered following Ring Net installation through FEMA and other federal and state grant programs, thus providing potential seed capital for additional mitigation measures in later years.

It is anticipated that no money will be contributed by the County of Santa Barbara from capital funds or operating funds in the 2018-19 fiscal year budgets, despite the fact that Montecito homeowners dispatch $104 million to County coffers each year and get back only a small percentage of that amount in services. Unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities for retired County employees effectively bankrupt the County, choking off funding for emergency capital funding expenditures.

Debris Basins and Creek Channel Maintenance

Historically, mountain mitigation has focused more on larger and more sophisticated debris basins as the primary defense against destructive debris flows. Unfortunately, enlargement of Montecito’s six debris basins may be restrained by local topography, cost and time constraints, which makes the easily installed, economically priced Swiss Ring Nets a more viable option for installation this year.

A second restraint on improved debris basins, or even the same ones we have now, is that the County Flood Control has no budget for routine annual maintenance of Montecito’s six inadequate, undersized debris basins, and no capital improvement budget to build larger and more efficient debris basins.

The irony is that the Santa Barbara County Final Updated Debris Basin Maintenance and Removal Plan, published in June 2017 – six months before the January 9 tragedy –stipulated the eliminationof two of our inadequate debris basins; “environmentalists” deemed the undersized basins to be a threat to an endangered non-existent fish swimming up a non-existent creek that is perpetuallydry during mating season.Thankfully, after the January 9 disaster, County plans to shut down the San Ysidro Debris Basin and the Cold Spring Basin were quietly shelved over the objections of the federal National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) and their environmental friends.

For real protection, what we need are sophisticated debris basins, similar in size to the giant Santa Monica Debris Basin (208,000 cubic yards of flood debris capacity) that saved Carpinteria from a Montecito-like disaster. The Santa Monica debris basin was built in 1977 as a result of major mud and rock flow in Carpinteria in 1969. Construction of the Santa Monica Debris Basin was sponsored by the Carpinteria Valley Watershed Project, with funding grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service, a forerunner to today’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

It took Carpinteria eight years after its disastrous debris flows of 1969 to plan, fund, and build its enlarged debris basin. How long will it take Montecito to do the same, and at what cost?

Time to Do Your (Our) Part

Interested contributors to the Partnership for Resilient Communities are encouraged to write checks payable to the Santa Barbara Foundation, earmarked for the Partnership for Resilient Communities, mailed to PFRC, P.O. Box 5476, Montecito, CA 93150. Generous donors in Montecito have pledged to match individual contributions up to a maximum of $500,000 to kick-start the campaign.

Recovery and Rebirth

by Bob Hazard

Residents whose homes received little or no damage are gradually returning to their nests.  Homeowners, working alongside the Army Corps of Engineers, are assessing damage and beginning to restore one of the most beautiful communities on earth. With the exception of the two exclusion zones around Cold Springs/Montecito Creek and San Ysidro Creek, Mandatory Evacuation orders have been lifted.

“Rebuilding Montecito” Community Forum

On Friday morning, January 26, 2018, 1st District County Supervisor Das Williams, convened aRebuilding Montecito” community forum for interested Montecito community members. His opening remarks set the right tone:

“We put this event together because those who do not live in Montecito cannot fully understand the frustration, the exhaustion or the heartbreak of the Montecito community. This community is still in emergency status. Recovery will take patience. Neither fire, nor flood, nor the fiscal deficits at the County and State level will stop us from recovering as a community.”

Das is right. We do need to come together—to get residents back into their homes; to clear away the mud and debris from public and private property; to find safe places to put it; to restore the sewer system, drains and utility services; to rebuild where we can; to heal the scars and restore and improve the community’s infrastructure; to clean out the flood basins; to deal with the radical changes in Montecito’s topography; and to create a vision of where we go from here to make Montecito a better and safer community than it was before the Fire and the Flood—while preparing for the next catastrophic event, which surely will come.

Montecito Union School Reopens

After the Mandatory Evacuation notice for lower San Ysidro Road was lifted, the 415 Montecito Union Elementary School (MUS) students were able to return to their own campus at 385 San Ysidro Road on Friday, January 26, for the first time since class closures on January 7.

Turn on My Gas.  I Need a Hot Shower!

For many Montecitans returning to their homes, one of the biggest immediate challenges is getting the gas hooked up. SoCal Gas representatives are working their way through neighborhoods, house by house, to restore service.   You will be alerted by phone call or text when So Cal Gas is in your area.  You must be at home for service reconnection.   SoCal Gas has brought in representatives from throughout the region to assist with this very labor-intensive work.

Is My Water Safe to Drink?

Full restoration of a potable water system for Montecito and Summerland was originally set for Saturday, January 27, 2018, according to Nick Turner, GM, Montecito Water District. That date has now slipped to next Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

For the most current information on water safety, go to the Montecito Water District (MWD)website (www.montecitowater.com) and click on “Latest News” for Boil Water Notices, High Chlorine Content/Super Chlorinated Water, System Flushing and Emergency Potable Water Distribution information.

Once the water is deemed safe by MWD, restaurants in Montecito will still need to get cleared by the Santa Barbara County Health Department before they can resume normal service. Restaurants such as Giovanni’s on Coast Village Road have opened with paper plates and plastic utensils, but no carbonated drinks, except from cans. Also open is Here’s the Scoop and The Village Cheese and Wine Shop, serving free food and free coffee to residents in the Upper Village who refused to leave and to hungry first responders. More on Patrick Braid, owner, and his heroism, later.

Mud Removal from Private Property: A Massive Clean-Up Still to Come

The Army Corp of Engineers estimates that 2,000,000 cubic yards of muck and mud will be removed from public roadways, creek and catch basins in Montecito. By way of reference, a standard dump truck carries 10 cubic yards of mud, meaning that cleanup will require the hauling of 20,000 truckloads of debris out of Montecito.

As individual homeowners begin the process of cleaning up their own homes, properties, pools, and private roads, even more debris will need to be hauled out of Montecito.  The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management is currently working on recommendations for disposition of debris that is currently on private property.

Current Housing Needs

An estimated 400 homes in Montecito out of an inventory of 4,000 have been destroyed or heavily damaged, mostly in the two long-term exclusion zones of Cold Springs/Montecito Creek basin and the San Ysidro Creek basin.  This near-term housing shortage will heavily impact the demand for rental properties in the area.

Sewer Service from Montecito Sanitary District

Diane Gabriel, General Manager and District Engineer for the Montecito Sanitary District, reports that sewer service to undamaged homes is available and reliable.

If your home has experienced significant damage, it is possible that your private sewer lateral may have been impacted with mud and debris. If this is your situation, please contact the sanitary district at (805) 969-4200, or e-mail cmartin@montsan.org  prior to using indoor plumbing. The district will work with your plumbing contractor in locating your sewer cleanouts for appropriate removal of mud and debris from sewer laterals, if necessary.

U.S. Mail Delivery, UPS and Federal Express

Homes where mandatory evacuations have been lifted are now receiving current U.S. mail deliveries, plus back mail, even though the Montecito Post Office in the Upper Village remains closed. Private mail and package delivery has now resumed. Amazon is back in your life, ladies.

If You Have Fire Insurance, Does It Cover Damage from the Mudslide and Flood?

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara County) has taken the lead in helping  residents whose homes were devastated or destroyed by the Thomas Fire or subsequent mudslides to ensure that fire insurance policies cover losses incurred by fire-induced mudslides.

Her proposed Senate Bill 917 clarifies that the Thomas Wildfire, the largest in California’s history, was the cause of the January 9 mudslide that cost the Montecito community at least 21 lives, destroyed or severely damaged 400 homes and evacuated thousands of local residents into temporary quarters.

Coast Village Road Re-Opening Update

by Bob Hazard

Coast Village Road is open to business owners/employees and the public today, January 23. This is the first re-opening in Montecito since the flood of January 9th. In order to preserve security in unoccupied residential areas and to keep emergency routes free of local traffic, there will continue to be blockades at the following Montecito checkpoints:

 US-101 Police Barricades in Montecito

US-101 Northbound AT SHEFFIELD DR. OFF-RAMP— No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT SAN YSIDRO RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT OLIVE MILL RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT HERMOSILLO RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT EVANS AVE. ON-RAMP—No entrance

US-101 Southbound AT SAN YSIDRO RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Southbound AT OLIVE MILL RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Southbound AT SHEFFIELD DR. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

 

Additional Police Barricades in Montecito

SANTA CLAUS LANE AT S. PADARO LANE

SR-192 AT LOWER TORO CANYON

SR-192 AT ORTEGA RIDGE RD

SR-192 AT SHEFFIELD DRIVE

ORTEGA HILL ROAD AT ORTEGA RIDGE ROAD

SHEFFIELD DRIVE AT ORTEGA HILL ROAD

SR-192 AT SAN YSIDRO ROAD

SAN YSIDRO ROAD AT N. JAMESON LANE

OLIVE MILL ROAD AT N. JAMESON LANE

OLIVE MILL ROAD AT SAN BENITO WAY

HOT SPRINGS RD AT OAK RD.

SR-192 AT HOT SPRINGS ROAD

SR-192 AT SYCAMORE CANYON ROAD

 Initial Residential Re-Population Zone: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Today at noon marks the beginning of the “systematic and incremental” re-population effort of Montecito.  Homes in Emergency Evacuation Zone MTO O9, which runs from Eucalyptus Hill Road and Sycamore Canyon down to Coast Village Road, and a small portion of Emergency Evacuation Zone MTO 03, west of Hot Springs Creek, are being opened up to residents. Residents will have access to their homes, but will need to work with So Cal Gas representatives to have their gas turned on, and can then begin any clean-up work required on their own properties.

To identify your Emergency Evacuation Zone, check out the Emergency Information section of County of Santa Barbara website (countyofsb.org). When the site opens, click on the Red Bar labeled “Interactive Evacuation Map,” which displays the Montecito Evacuation Zones. You will have to play with the “Zoom In-Out Feature” to find your own residence and its Evacuation Zone Code.

As part of Montecito’s re-population, the voluntary evacuation designation will be lifted north of the 101, west of Olive Mill/Mesa Road/Oak Road, south of Hot Springs Rd/Sycamore Canyon Road, east of Eucalyptus Tree Road/El Rancho Road/Camino Viejo Road/Summit Road/Hot Springs Road.

The mandatory evacuation warning will be lifted for the area bounded by Ayala Lane, Ashley Road north of Sycamore Canyon Road to the 700 block of Ashley, east of Cold Spring Road, south of East Mountain Drive to the 800 block of E. Mountain Drive.

Residents needing wheel chair assistance to return to their residences can call Easy Lift at (805) 681-1180.

2nd Residential Re-population Zone: Wednesday, January 24

Wednesday, January 24 will mark the 2nd residential area in Montecito to be re-populated.  Targeted areas are Evacuation Zones MTO 13, which runs from the 101 down to Channel Drive, and the eastern portion of MTO 14, which runs from Jameson Lane down to Hammonds Beach but excludes the areas around Bonnymede and Montecito Shores in the western part of MTO 14. The same rules as above would apply.

The Four Seasons Santa Barbara Biltmore, undergoing their second closure and restoration since the Thomas Fire began last month, reports that their re-opening date is estimated to be April 1.

3rd Residential Re-Population Zone: Possibly Within the Next 5 Days

Within the next five days, the re-populating effort is expected to move to a portion of Emergency Evacuation Zone MTO 11, likely including residential homes in Birnam Wood, Ennisbrook and Montecito Ranch, all having access from Sheffield Drive, south of 192 East Valley Road. The same rules as above would apply.

Next Steps After Re-Population

Residents who return to their homes will be eager to retain private contractors to clean up mud on private property. That muck and mud contains a high degree of toxicity from fecal matter from broken sewer lines; petroleum hydrocarbons from motor oil, gasoline and diesel engines; and even poison ivy.

According to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, precautionary measures should include a tetanus booster for those who have not had a tetanus shot in the last ten years; wearing long-sleeved shirts, boots and nitrile gloves, goggles; and taking other appropriate safety and protection measures.

Residents who hire contractors, or use their own employees in cleanup, or do work themselves are encouraged to contact the Public Health Department to learn about best practices.  Special questions can be directed to Dr. Charity Dean, the county’s Health Officer, at charity.dean@sbcphd.org or by calling (805) 681-5152.

SoCal Gas Update:  Re-populated Residents

SoCal Gas has completed its assessment of the gas lines in Montecito and is currently making repairs near the Summit Road, Ortega Ridge Road, Hill Road and Coast Village Road areas. Natural gas service has been restored to 596 homes and 46 businesses along Coast Village Road as of January 22. Next up is restoration of service to some 600 customers west of Sheffield Drive.

Montecito residents are encouraged to visit the SoCal Gas booth at the Flood Recovery and Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara or go on-line at socalgas.com/Montecito. Customers should provide updated contact information by clicking on the yellow “Update Info” button at the website, or by calling SoCal Gas at 1-800-427-2200. As SoCal Gas restores natural gas to neighborhoods, individual customers will be contacted by telephone, text or e-mail. To restore gas, you need to be at home to provide access to a SoCal Gas representative.

SoCal Gas has announced that it will not charge customers for natural gas during the temporary service interruption. In addition, if your home has been destroyed, or rendered uninhabitable, SoCal will forgive your final bill. Nice gesture.

The Bridges of Montecito

The biggest barrier to opening Route 192/East Valley Road is the condition of the bridges over Montecito’s creeks. All have been evaluated for safety. Some may be repaired; others will need to be replaced.

Pulling Together

Rebuilding Montecito will require patience and innovation. No whining or complaining allowed.  Be aware that stress can take many forms, and we should reach out to support each other through this challenging time.

Sunday Night Update

by Bob Hazard

Body of Missing Woman Found

On Saturday morning, January 20, 2018 just before 10 AM, specially trained rescue dogs and their handlers recovered the body of missing victim Faviola Benitez-Calderon, age 28, in the 100 block of Santo Tomas Lane near Olive Mill Road. She was the mother of 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez, deceased, and his cousin, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez and her mother, 27-year-old Marilyn Ramos, also deceased. Survivors of this family tragedy were the father and the baby, who was recovered at some distance downstream from the family home.

The death toll in the January 9th Montecito mudflow is now 21. Still missing are Jack Cantin, age 17, and Lydia Sutthithepa, age 2, both formerly living in the Olive Mill/Hot Springs corridor.

 Report on the Injured

A total of 28 patients were admitted to Cottage Hospital with storm-related injuries. As of Friday, only four patients remain hospitalized, including two in critical condition, according to Maria Zate, Cottage Health spokeswoman

Re-population Planning

Re-population planning is still very complicated, and target dates are very fluid at this point.  Here’s what we do know.

The 101 through Montecito is now open!  Heavy truck traffic will continue, but commuters from points south of Montecito will be able to get to and from work in Santa Barbara.  Commercial deliveries can be made to local businesses, and the pace of activity outside of Montecito should quickly return to normal.

Because of the ongoing need to provide for the efficient movement of recovery vehicles and the protection of our community from potential looters, we can expect to see ramp closures at the Olive Mill, San Ysidro and Sheffield exits for some period of time.  The Army Corp of Engineers, utility restorers, creek bed cleaners, manhole maestros, water line wizards, drainage experts, bridge repairers and mud movers all have work to complete without interruption from local residents. The California Highway Patrol is maintaining 28 traffic control points in Montecito to ensure “No Way In (or Out)” without proper identification and authorization.

The re-opening of Route 192/East Valley Road remains uncertain. According to County Sheriff Bill Brown, one bridge on East Valley has been condemned, another one has sustained significant damage, and essential electrical work must be completed in a third section of the roadway.

Much work has been completed over the last few days that will lead to the early re-opening of many of the restaurants, shops and other businesses on Coast Village Road.  This achievement will mark a big step in returning our community to some sense of semi-normalcy.

Residential re-population will happen in phases, as neighborhoods become fully habitable, as roadways become safely accessible and proper security can be maintained. There are very few specifics at this time.  However, as the various utility companies come closer to completion of their expected repairs, the staging re-population will become much easier for officials to forecast.

Emergency Access to your Home

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is tasked with restricting public traffic into the recovery zones of Montecito and protecting our unoccupied homes.  However, Sheriff Bill Brown notes that it is possible for Montecito residents to make very brief return visits to their homes in the event of true personal emergencies.  Anyone who believes he/she has a valid reason to gain access to a home should contact the Sheriff’s call center at 833-688-5551.  If the requested access is approved, the resident will be personally escorted to the residence by a member of the Sheriff’s Department.  Providing access for brief home visits is extremely labor-intensive and requests for this service should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Montecito Water Lawsuit

In response to recent news about the filing of a lawsuit against the Montecito Water District, Palmer Jackson, Jr. writes, “I haven’t seen anybody comment on the lawsuit of the water district that these lawyers and a couple of home-owners are essentially suing all of the rest of us — since we all own our water district. Is this not true? And if it is true, could we not counter-sue them by claiming that they are attempting to harm the rest of us (many of us with damaged homes) by suing the water district. If the water district has to settle, don’t we all have to pay that out of our own pockets — the deductible at least?”

The Montecito Water District responded with a statement dated January 20, 2018:

 “The catastrophic impact of the mudslides in Montecito has been tragic, to say the least. From the moment this devastation began, Montecito Water District’s focus has been supporting first responders and working as expeditiously as possible to restore water service to the Montecito community. The intensity of the storm event is beyond dispute, as evidenced by the massive boulders which were dislodged by the mudslides. We have all been impacted by this tragedy.

“On Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 we learned that Montecito Water District was named as a Defendant in a lawsuit that has been filed as a result of the mudslides. The District believes that the filing of this action at this time is unfortunate, and any allegations of liability on the part of the District are irresponsible, highly speculative, and premature. The District is confident that forensic evidence and expert analysis will show that to be true. Nevertheless, now that litigation is pending, on the advice of District counsel, Montecito Water District will have no further comment at this time.”

 

Restoration of Electrical Power

Rudy Gonzales of Southern California Edison reports that there are some 1,100 homes in Montecito without power as of last Friday. Southern California Edison expects to restore service to all homes not destroyed or significantly damaged by January 31.

Restoration of Gas

Southern California Gas reports that natural gas service has been restored to 1,000 homes and businesses by gaining access to areas that were previously closed off or under mud. Montecito customers, who were evacuated WILL NOT be billed for service during the evacuation period, and the company will forgive the last bill for those homes deemed destroyed or severely damaged and uninhabitable.

SoCal Gas has an excellent website https:// www.socalgas.com/newsroom/montecito or call 1-800-427-2200 24/7. Register or log in to “My Account.” When SoCal Gas is ready to do connections in your neighborhood they will attempt to contact customers in advance via an automated telephone call, text message and e-mail as to when the reconnection process to individual residences and buildings will begin. On the website is a daily, color-coded update map of gas service restoration areas as the occur.

Restoration of Water

Repairs are ahead of schedule. Nick Turner, GM of the Montecito Water District (MWD), reports that water may be available at all taps as soon as January 22. In the last nine days, crews from the City of Santa Barbara, MWD and their contractors, have repaired seven breaks in the District’s 14-inch highline transmission pipeline. Two breaks from 60 to 120 feet long in the pipeline from Jameson Reservoir are being repaired, with a completion date of January 22. Of the 13 breaks 20 to 50 feet long in the local distribution system, five have been repaired, and the rest of the work should be completted by January 31. Nineteen fire hydrants were sheared off. All have been located, repaired or replaced.

The District will work with FEMA and the State Office of Emergency Services to obtain funding for the ongoing work.

Restoration of Sewer Service

Diane Gabriel, head of the Montecito Sanitary System, reports that the wastewater treatment plant and all four lift stations were undamaged. Crews have checked 1,350 of the District’s 2,000 manholes and 1,000 are undamaged. The others are choked with mud and are being cleaned out. Crews are also assessing and cleaning the District’s 75 miles of sewer pipeline.

Montecito Mail Pickup

Blair and Heidi Whitney write, “How do we get our mail? We have a PO Box in the Upper Village Post Office.”

The United States Post Office reports that all Montecito mail can be picked up at the Santa Barbara Post Office located at 107 Nopalitos Way, near Milpas Street, south of the 101. Expect significant delays unless you get in line at least 15 minutes before opening.

Flood Information and Emergency Assistance

The local Flood Emergency Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel, 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez, offers a variety of recovery services to affected flood residents, including housing and hotel information and public utility information kiosks. A FEMA service trailer is parked outside the center. Hours are 11:00 am to 6:30 pm on weekdays; 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays; and closed on Sunday.

MUDSLIDE INCIDENT REPORT

by Montecito Water Department

PLEASE FIND AN UPDATE BELOW FROM THE MONTECITO WATER DISTRICT REGARDING THE STATUS OF OUR WATER SUPPLIES FOLLOWING THE DEVASTATING RAINFALL AND MUDFLOW THAT TOOK PLACE IN MONTECITO ON JANUARY 9, 2018.

Montecito Water District incurred damage to its infrastructure as a result of heavy rainfall and mudflows that took place on January 9, 2018. Below is information you may find useful in understanding the extent of the damages, the progress being made on repairs, and the impacts on District customers.

RECOGNIZING THAT ADDITIONAL DAMAGES ARE LIKELY TO BE DISCOVERED AS DEBRIS IS REMOVED AND PRESSURE IS RESTORED IN THE SYSTEM, KNOWN DAMAGES ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. Highline Transmission Pipeline
District crews are continuing to work alongside contractors and neighboring agencies to make repairs to a 14-inch steel transmission main referred to as the “Highline”. This transmission main was compromised in 7 locations, all at creek crossings. This pipeline is critical to the District’s water distribution system, connecting the District’s storage reservoirs to one another and facilitating the movement of water throughout the distribution system. The Highline breaks require the replacement of large sections of pipe, measuring 40 to 225 feet in length and elevated up to 50 feet above the creek. Due to the mudslides, the site conditions have been drastically altered at each project location.

District water system operators and Contractors were deployed following the incident to initiate the required repairs at these locations, some temporary and some permanent, depending on the site conditions. To date, three of the breaks have been repaired with permanent solutions (i.e. excavating soil and encasing the pipe in concrete at a maximum depth and backfilling with rock). Due to the site conditions and complexities associated with permanent repairs at the other four crossings, temporary repairs have been installed at these locations. The temporary repairs involve the installation of 8-inch diameter HDPE pipe laid in alternate routes around the creek or above the creek. All crossings were repaired on or before January 18th.With the completion of all repairs to the Highline, the District is now moving water from the South Coast Conduit to its storage reservoirs located along the Highline. Although the temporary repairs will result in a reduction in capacity of the Highline, it will enable movement of water throughout the system, and bring the full system back online.

District staff is working with consultants, regulators and state/federal officials on the process of implementing permanent repairs at these remaining locations as soon as possible. The completion of permanent repairs will result in regaining full capacity of the pipeline; restoring fire protection capacity; and further reducing the risks associated with a heavy rain event that could compromise the temporary pipeline while permanent repairs are implemented

2. Jameson Lake/Juncal Transmission Pipeline
This pipeline is a dedicated 18-inch steel pipeline that delivers water from Jameson Lake to the Bella Vista Treatment Plant through the Doulton tunnel. This pipeline was compromised in 2 locations, measuring from 60 to 120 feet in length. Damage to the pipeline was caused by significant rockslides. The 8 mile long dirt access road to Jameson Lake is on U.S. Forest Service property and was not initially passable due to landslides. Working with a neighboring agency, the road was cleared and repairs to the pipeline commenced. The contractor began the repairs to the pipeline on January 17th. Repairs are expected to be completed by Monday, January 22nd. Once work is complete, lake deliveries will resume.

3. Distribution System
Pipelines – The distribution system was compromised in 13 locations. Nearly all of these locations are on bridge crossings at creeks. In some areas, the pipeline was damaged but remains in place and in others, the pipeline is completely destroyed. These pipes range from 6 to 12-inches in diameter and span 20 to 50 feet in length. With the help of local contractors, repairs to these crossings are being made. Five of the thirteen repairs have been completed. The remaining repairs are projected to be completed on or before January 21st. These repairs require significant coordination through the Office of Emergency Services with other utility agencies working in the area.

Fire Hydrants – 19 fire hydrants were sheared off during the mudflows. These damaged fire hydrants have been located, turned off to stop the flow of water, and have been either repaired or replaced.

Facility Shutoffs – With the help of City of Santa Barbara staff, crews performed a coordinated effort to inspect the entire District service area from East to West, searching for running water, locating leaking pipelines, valves, service lines, and fire hydrants and shutting down water to these facilities. Approximately 165 identified service line leaks have been temporarily shutoff. Because debris covered many of these facilities, this process required 4 days to complete. Pressure is now building in the system indicating that most of the system leaking has been stopped.

Pressure Regulating Valves (PRV) – During the incident, debris and mud filled many of the District’s underground vaults containing pressure regulators and valves. Pressure regulators are used to control system pressure between the District’s twenty-five pressure zones. Access to these regulators is vital to ensure proper operation once the system is up and running to avoid over pressurizing the system and causing additional pipeline breaks. With the assistance of vacuum trucks from the City of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria Sanitary District, all 52 pressure regulating stations were cleaned of debris and mud in anticipation of bringing the system back to normal operation.

There are isolated areas of the distribution system that have yet to be fully assessed for damage due to limited access. There are other areas where work remains prohibited due to the ongoing search and recovery effort. These areas have been isolated from the rest of the water system in an effort to move forward with bringing the rest of the system back online as quickly as possible. As more areas become accessible it is likely that, given the amount of destruction in these areas, additional damages will be identified.

CURRENT CUSTOMER IMPACTS

Water Availability
The current availability of water varies depending on the location within the District. In general, properties located below East Valley Road (Hwy192) have had water at their tap since the incident. As repairs to the system are being made, water is becoming available to customers located above Hwy 192.

Boil Water Notice
On January 9, 2018, a Boil Water Notice was issued as a result of losing pressure in portions of the District’s water system during the mudflows, notifiying customers of the need to boil/disinfect all tap water used for drinking and cooking purposes. This Boil Water Notice remains in effect for most District customers. A cancellation of the Boil Water Notice has been issued for the following areas:

A. Summerland – All properties located east of and including Ortega Ridge Road to the ocean, south of and including Hunt Drive, and west of and including Greenwell Road / Asegra Road including Freesia Drive, Caspia Lane, Marguerita Way, and the Montecito Ranch Estates.

B. Upper Toro Canyon – All properties located on Toro Canyon Road north of East Valley Road (Hwy 192) except for 685, 693 and 695 Toro Canyon Road.

The interactive zone boundary map is available on the District’s website at www.montecitowater.com and the County of Santa Barbara website www.countyofsb.org. The Boil Water Notice remains in effect for many Montecito Water District Customers. Further information on water treatment can be found on the District web site: http://www.montecitowater.com/latest-news/boil-water-notice-01-09-2018/
For clarity and customer convenience, An interactive map of the Montecito Water District Boundary (with noted exceptions described) depicts the areas where the Boil Water Notice has been cancelled. We will be updating this continuously in the coming weeks to depict any change in status.

Bottled Water Distribution Centers
Two accessible Emergency Potable Water Distributions Sites are in operation from 8am to 8pm daily:
• Summerland Post Office – 2245 Lillie Avenue
• Montecito Fire Station #2 at Cold Spring and Sycamore Canyon Rd. (192)
Inside the Mandatory Evacuation is a third site, not intended for public access, at the South West corner of East Valley Road and San Ysidro Road (Upper Village). Emergency water distribution will continue at these locations until further notice and any changes will be indicated on the District’s web site.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE COMING DAYS

Water may be available at all taps as soon as Monday, January 22nd. Although water may be available or may become available at your property, it is important to note that all District customers remain under a Boil Water Notice unless otherwise indicated on our interactive District boundary map. (Please refer to the Interactive Map on the District website for most current information.

Restoration of service is anticipated the week of January 28th. With the system repairs scheduled to be completed, we have transitioned to a new phase in our recovery process involving: returning the system to its normal operating pressures; flushing any remaining debris from the system; super chlorinating the system; and performing bacteriological testing required by the California Division of Drinking Water. District staff, with input from the State Water Resources Control Board and other mutual aid agencies, are developing this plan now. Implementation of that plan is estimated to begin as soon as Saturday January 20th and may take between 5-10 days to complete. Upon completion, a cancellation of the Boil Water Notice is expected.

IMPORTANT: As service is restored, customers should anticipate periodic high levels of chlorine in the water. Further information will be provided. Areas where the Boil Water Notice has been lifted will not be affected.

CUSTOMER CONTACT INFORMATION

Please note that the District Office is located inside a Mandatory Evacuation Zone and is not available for public access.
The most current information is posted on our web site: www.montecitowater.com.

For Customer Service or billing questions call: (805) 969-2271 or email: customerservice@montecitowater.com
After Hours Emergency Service* phone: (805) 969-2271

SPECIAL THANKS
General Manager Nick Turner states:
“I’d like to recognize and extend heartfelt thanks to all 26 Montecito Water District employees who have worked non-stop since this incident began on January 9th. I can assure you that District staff has done a tremendous job making repairs to our system and that all are working as expeditiously as possible to get it fully functional.

In addition, we’ve had incredible levels of support. While the gratitude we express will be ongoing, at this time we would particularly like to thank the more than 100 personnel who have come to assist us thus far. They have arrived on short notice, bringing all manner of heavy equipment and specialized skills, and worked long days under unimaginably grueling conditions. We have had every possible resource needed to successfully complete the immediate repairs, from helicopter transport to satellite phones, gators and trailers for accessing the Jameson Lake projects, trained water distribution specialists and more. To the many mutual aid agencies and contractors who have rushed in to support us, including the Cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Ventura and San Luis Obispo, Counties of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, State of California, Federal Government, Goleta Water District, Carpinteria Water District, Carpinteria Sanitary District, Tierra and Lash Construction, Alan Larson, ZWorldGIS, and so many others it’s impossible to name them all, we truly can’t thank you enough.”

Highway 101 on Track for Monday Re-opening

(photo by Kelly Mahan)

by Bob Hazard

The 101 is expected to re-open Monday for public use. Up to 8 feet of debris has been removed and new guardrails have been installed. State route 192 Easy Valley Road remains closed indefinitely, pending probable replacement of damaged creek bridges. All evacuation orders remain in place.

Re-opening of Coast Village Road Business/Shopping areas

The City of Santa Barbara is responsible for CVR re-population. Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo has vowed to help shop owners and restaurants reopen ASAP. CVR is likely to be the first re-population zone in Montecito.

Take A Look at the Interactive Map of Montecito

If you haven’t done so already, and you have access to a computer, go to the countyofsb.org website. Click on the large blue horizontal bar labeled “Incomplete Preliminary Damage Inspections (95% Complete)” map to view the condition of individual Montecito properties. Enter your street address and the map will zoom in to show the condition of your home and your immediate neighborhood.

It is easy to see that significant destruction followed the channel basins of Montecito’s major creeks—Montecito, San Ysidro, Buena Vista, Romero and Toro Canyon. The interactive maps represent an awesome display of Santa Barbara County technical competence.

How Can Montecito Residents Recover UPS Packages?

If you are expecting a UPS delivery, head out to 505 Pine Avenue in Goleta, exiting the 101 at 217 (the Santa Barbara Airport exit), right on Hollister Ave and left a few blocks later onto Pine. That center handles 17,000 UPS packages every day, rising to 28,000 packages a day through the Christmas season.

The UPS customer service center can generally locate and retrieve your package in an average of three minutes. The lines are short and move quickly

Another Montecito Miracle Story

While standing in line at the UPS Center, the woman behind me was Karen Johnson, who was asleep in her home of 18 years at 204 Olive Mill Road, along with her husband Augie and two of her children. 3:30 AM at 204 Olive Mill Road.

Awakened by the rain and the roar of the gas explosion at 3:30 AM, the whole family with their dog climbed to their roof in the darkness, watching a deluge of water, mud, boulders, debris and ooze coming toward them, while frantically calling to nearby neighbors, who were also clinging to their rooftops. The Johnsons watched, helplessly, as two of their three cars catapulted past them in the mudflow.

When emergency responders arrived some time later, Karen’s husband Augie climbed off the roof into the deep muck to join them and heard the sounds of what they thought was an infant crying. The sound was coming from the mud underneath their single remaining car and, miraculously, they found the Benitez baby, who had apparently washed down Montecito Creek from East Valley Road near Parra Grande Lane. Sadly, the baby’s mother, Faviola Benitez Calderon, is now missing and presumed dead; two older siblings are confirmed dead, but the father and the baby survived—an incredible Montecito miracle.

The Johnson family was evacuated out of the deep mud at 7:00 am. In relaying her story to me in line at the UPS facility, Karen made the astute observation that every family in her immediate neighborhood had the same discussion prior to the storm’s arrival. The women wanted to leave; the men all thought it would be safe to stay in their homes. Sadly, the women were right.

Family Assistance Center

Yesterday, January 17, Santa Barbara County opened a new Local Recovery and Family Assistance Center for evacuees at the Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara at 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, 93103, open from 11:00 am to 6:30 pm weekdays and 10:00am to 2:30pm Saturday. The Center is intended to create a centralized, single-point service center for those seeking to recover and rebuild. Reps from FEMA and all local, state and federal agencies are represented to provide answers and directions for hotel accommodations, housing assistance, permitting, cleanup, business insurance, flood/fire insurance and other topics.

Here Come The Lawsuits

The most interesting of these is the lawsuit filed by a four-firm law team representing four individuals and two business owners. The suit alleges that exploding transformers owned by Southern California Edison were responsible for the Thomas Fire on December 4, 2017, which de-nuded the hillsides between Ventura and Santa Barbara, making us vulnerable to the flooding that came early on the morning of January 9, 2018.

Last Friday the lawsuit was amended to include the Montecito Water District, alleging that a failure of the water district’s reservoir shutoff system caused the accidental release of some 8 to 9 million gallons of stored water down into the creek basins of Montecito.

Sadly, these issues will be topics of discussion for months and years to come. Let’s hope they do not distract us from the work of restoring this community to its previous vibrancy.

Status Report from the Montecito Sanitary District

 

The following is a press release that I issued to the County EOC today:

 The Montecito Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant was unharmed in the mudslide event. Due to the evacuations in the service area, wastewater flowing to the treatment plant is currently minimal –but proper treatment has been and continues to take place. All four of the District’s wastewater lift stations are intact and functioning. 

When SCE power went down during the flood event, all District facilities auto-transferred to back up diesel generator power and continued to function properly. To date, District crews in conjunction with our mutual aid partners, the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Dept., Goleta Sanitary District and Carpinteria Sanitary District have visually inspected 1300 of our 2000 manholes. 1100 manholes are reported to be in good condition. Many manholes were identified as having mud and debris. We are removing that material with vacuum trucks and delivering it to the wastewater treatment plant. 

 As mud and debris is removed from roadways and areas that are currently inaccessible, the inspections and mud removal work will continue. There are many locations within the District where wastewater service is currently available and reliable. Other areas still need to be inspected and cleaned. We will continue to work diligently to restore reliable wastewater service to the entire community by the time potable water service is available.

  Last night we mobilized three crews from National Plant (a contractor) working to vacuum mud, rocks and debris from our pipelines in North Jameson and Olive Mill / Hots Springs. Currently we are only approved to work at night in these locations. We will continue to work at night until we are given approval to work in the daytime and then we will work around the clock until the work is done.

  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,
Diane

Diane Gabriel, P.E.

General Manager / District Engineer

Montecito Sanitary District

805-969-4200