Santa Barbara County officials have been working and preparing for what is expected this upcoming weekend-a weather forecast predicting the first significant rain in the county since the Zaca Fire. Normally, the vegetation of the county’s backcountry usually keeps sediments and water up in the mountain. But with the 240,000-acre fire consuming most of those plants, county officials are predicting larger amounts of rainfall to make its way down the mountainsides, potentially leading to flooding. And with the water will come uprooted vegetation, mud and other burned debris, which could lead to the contamination of much of the watersheds in the county.
Since the fire, the public works department has been preparing for the first winter rains to roll through. In addition to planting vegetation near levee banks, a new floating debris boom designed to catch material and debris has been installed in parts of Lake Cachuma, a diversionary channel has been dug in the Santa Maria River to keep water moving downstream and not up riverbanks, and granite boulders have been set in areas near the Santa Maria levee in case erosion in the levee is detected. Last week the county’s office of emergency services also held a “Storm Summit” and flood contingency plan meeting with local, state and federal officials to coordinate efforts.
The weather forecast for the mountains and back country calls for one to three inches of rain. “It will be our first chance to see how the burned-out watershed areas react to significant rainfall and it will give us a chance to measure the success of our work,” said public works director Tom Fayram in a statement Wednesday.