Montecito Nonprofit Applies for Debris Nets Ahead of Winter

Emergency Measure Seeks to Mitigate a Repeat of 1/9 Debris Flow

An example of a ring net installed over an active stream in Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico.
Paul Wellman

The nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities has filed its application to install a series of steel-wire ring nets across the upper reaches of several Montecito canyons.

The heavily anchored net systems are designed to stop or slow debris flows should a rainstorm of high intensity cause a flood of mud, boulders, and uprooted trees similar to the natural disaster that occured on January 9, killing 23 Montecito residents and damaging or destroying more than 500 homes.

The permitting process with the County of Santa Barbara is now underway for Hot Springs, Cold Spring, San Ysidro, and Buena Vista canyons, all of which required permission from private property owners, including Ty Warner, who owns much of the canyon above his San Ysidro Ranch resort.

A net system in Romero Canyon, which requires a federal permit because it is situated in Los Padres National Forest, is also in the works, said Pat McElroy, the partnership’s spokesperson.

According to the application, Hot Springs, Cold Spring, and San Ysidro canyons will each get two nets, installed upstream from existing debris basins. For Buena Vista Canyon, which does not have a debris basin, the application is calling for a series of seven nets above Park Lane. McElroy said two nets are proposed for Romero Canyon, above its debris basin. The partnership is aiming to have the nets installed by the end of the year.

To expedite the process, the application was filed on an emergency basis, McElroy added, because “there’s still an imminent danger to life and property” should another big storm trigger a debris flow this winter. At the same time, the project must heed the Endangered Species Act because Montecito’s creeks and canyons are critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, including steelhead trout.


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