Thanks to a bit of pressure from the Environmental Defense Center and the ensuing efforts of Santa Barbara County staffers, some upper stretches of Gaviota’s Arroyo Quemada Creek that flow through the Baron Ranch are now a few steps closer to their natural state. Working from a tip he received last summer, the EDC’s Brian Trautwein notified the county about an alleged network of small, gravity-fed water pipes and diversion dams plaguing a portion of Arroyo Quemada Creek on county-owned property, an area that is officially listed as critical habitat for endangered species like the red-legged frog and the steelhead trout. Now, the pipes are gone, and the creek, presumably, will be a wetter place come the summer months. “It was a great cooperative effort,” said Trautwein this week of the cleanup. “Usually, we have to go through regulatory agencies [for something like this], but the county just went ahead and did it.”
Leslie Wells, the Baron Ranch program leader for the county’s Public Works Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division, explained that the pipes in question — small, one-inch offenders running through the heart of the creek bed — predated the county’s ownership of the property and once fed a long-since knocked-down A-frame cabin nearby. In fact, according to Wells, she was not certain the pipes were still actively diverting water, but she said the county was happy to cut and remove them as part of its ongoing restoration of the historic property that it purchased in the 1990s as a buffer of sorts for the neighboring Tajiguas Landfill.
Balancing avocado and cherimoya ranching with a public hiking trail on the property, the county has also spent considerable time and money restoring a 50-acre portion of the Arroyo Quemada Creek habitat to its native state by removing the aforementioned ranching efforts from the creek zone and replacing them with native landscaping. “It is amazing, really, what is happening out there right now,” gushed Wells. “This massive restoration is just going off.”