Randall Road project expect to at least quadruple flood capacity
A ribbon cutting ceremony took place Monday morning for the Randall Road Basin Project — Montecito’s largest debris basin.
The basin, which is expected to at least quadruple the community’s flood control capacity, has been under construction since the Thomas Fire debris flow devastated Montecito in 2018.
Attending the ceremony were U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara; 1st District Supervisor Das Williams; 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart; California Department of Water Resources Manager Salomon Miranda; Santa Barbara Public Works Director Scott McGolpin and special guest V. Lopez and Sons. Residents from the community were also in attendance.
“The project started after the Thomas Fire Debris Flow, and we completed it in October including acquisition of eight properties design, construction, environmental and funding,” Walter Rubalcava, deputy director of Water Resource Division and Flood Control District for Santa Barbara County Public Works Department, told the News-Press Tuesday. (Mr. Rubalcava was also among those attending Monday’s ceremony.)
The project was approved in August 2020, and construction on the $21.3 million project began in May 2021.
Funding for the basin includes a $13.5 million hazard mitigation grant from FEMA.
“The state is also working to secure a $4.5 million community development block grant,” said Mr. Rubalcava.
“As we approach the five-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flow, I am proud to stand with Santa Barbara County’s public servants and first responders to remember those that lost their lives and their livelihoods in the best way we know how: Completing projects in their memory that will prevent future disasters and protect those who call Montecito and the Central Coast home,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “As a former Santa Barbara County supervisor and our region’s proud federal representative, it was my privilege to work with federal, state and local agencies — including Santa Barbara County Public Works, FEMA, and the Army Corps of Engineers — as well as members of the Montecito community to secure federal dollars and ensure this debris basin project was completed to improve regional resiliency and save lives in the face of worsening climate disasters.”
“We excavated approximately 90,000 cubic yards of material or 8,000 truckloads,” said Mr. Rubalcava. “The hope is that after the next wildfire that brings debris down the mountain, that the debris will be captured down at the basin to protect and keep flow as clear as possible beyond the basin so that the debris flow is reduced to help keep culverts and bridges clear of debris,”
“The Randall Debris Basin at a minimum quadruples the flood control capacity and is a part of a strong effort by the county to improve public safety in that area. It was brought to us by a member of the community due to the devastation and the staff had thought about it but previously it had been thought not possible,” 2nd District Supervisor Das Williams told the News-Press Tuesday. “There were moments it was touch and go. We did not give up, and we felt that it was really important to go forward. There are more improvements that we think it would be important to do including other places for possible basins. We feel that there is a job to do from the mountains to the sea to improve flood control.”
Improvements include expanding the capacity of existing creek beds, enlarging current basins (two have already been enlarged) and a third basin is under consideration, and “we would like to consider other basins,” according to Supervisor Williams.
“We are using hazard mitigation program grants — if you look at cost-to-benefit ratios and consider the amount of money it could save down the road,” said Mr. Rubalcava. “Just one house could be worth millions of dollars. Our goal was to spend money now and minimize the chance of major costs down the road. We are taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive one,”
“I’m very excited about this new debris basin because it will significantly improve public safety in the event of a future debris flow in Montecito,” Supervisor Hart told the News-Press. “The project was a large collaboration between federal, state and county governments. The new protection is both environmentally sound and state-of-the-art flood control in one package.”