The weird weather freak show that’s been entertaining the Santa Barbara region for the past couple weeks got seriously scary this past weekend for folks at Quail Springs, the pioneering permaculture farm and sustainable living model located up a Cuyama Valley canyon. After three inches of rain dropped in a mere half-hour on Saturday, October 2, a torrent of water came down canyon, hurling cottonwood trees, ripping out boulders, and obliterating the farm’s water harvesting system, plumbing, fish pond, gardens, portable toilets, and some roadways. Although some buildings were flooded and a swept-away trailer bashed into a tree, no one was injured, reported Quail Springs visionary Warren Brush, who estimates the damage to be more than $40,000.
“We are going to have to redesign and rebuild completely out of the flood plain,” said Brush in an email to supporters, calling the incident a “100-year flood event” and explaining that he thought the 10-foot-high berms would be able to hold a deluge. “We did not factor in that there would be incredibly large amounts of deposition of silt that would raise the whole valley floor and allow for the torrents of water to river over all of our years of work,” he explained. “We have had many tears and wisps of laughter as we look out over our years of work, soil building, and story making.”
Boardmember Jim Brady drove out there on Sunday morning to bring food and other supplies. “It was gnarly,” he said, explaining that Saturday’s event was preceded by a smaller flash flood on Friday. “There could have absolutely been death all over the place. There was a wall of water 1,000 feet across. It’s like somebody took a fire hose, started it on Mt. Pinos, and it just came down and flushed it out.” Brady said that there were plenty of tears on Sunday, but that the hard work of salvaging whatever could be found and replumbing the landscape had already begun.
Although the flood reversed six years of work on rebuilding the canyon’s soil, the Quail Springs crew seemed to be in good spirits. “We are having to remember that we are working on a 200-year plan,” said the team in a Facebook post, “and that these events will help us redesign and rebuild in a way that is more appropriate for the vagaries of this ancient spring canyon and the place we call home.”
Anyone interested in helping or contributing should visit quailsprings.org. Checks made out to “Quail Springs” can be sent to: Quail Springs, 35070 Highway 33, Maricopa, CA 93252.