According to officials, nearly 1,250 acres of the Jesusita burn area will be covered with hydromulch - which helps strengthen soils and foster new plant growth - perhaps as early as September 15. Of this, approximately 1,000 of the acres will be contracted by the County of Santa Barbara with the remaining 250 acres by the U.S. Forest Service.
Thanks to $4.6 million in emergency funding provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the county is only on the hook for $100,000 with the City of Santa Barbara kicking in an additional $50,000.
Aware of criticism that last year’s hydromulching of the nearly 10,000-acre Gap Fire area included plastics, metal fragments, and other undesirable litter, county officials are promising that this round of hydromulching will be certified “100 percent plastic-free,” explained Tom Fayram, the county’s deputy director of Public Works. “We are aware of the problem,” he said, “and we will be monitoring the mulching extremely carefully.”
NRCS has mandated that the mulching be done no later than mid-October, so the county is scrambling to get the program moving by September 15. Residents in the to-be-sprayed areas should expect “soft closures,” meaning that roads in the affected areas will be open to residents only during the operation.
Hikers may be affected as well, as the Jesusita Trail goes through an area slated for spraying. That and other trail access issues are on the agenda of the upcoming September 2 Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force meeting.
The word I’m hearing is that the recently re-opened parts of Jesusita Trail could be closed again as the hydromulch will be applied on both east and west sides of the trail and that Mission Canyon, including Tunnel Trail, Seven Falls, and the route to Inspiration Point will be closed as well through at least the winter rainy season.