National Guard Deployed to Sort Through Flood Rubble

Troops Separating Debris at Randall Road Basin in Montecito

Courtesy: County of Santa Barbara

The California National Guard has deployed 150 personnel to Montecito to clear out the rubble from the Randall Road debris basin, by far the largest in Montecito. About 85 members of the National Guard are expected to begin work on the effort Thursday night; meals were served by the Miramar Hotel.

The National Guard members will be separating out boulders and rocks, placing them in one pile; dirt, mud, and silt in another; and organic materials — tree branches and logs — into a third. The silt and mud will be tested for environmental contaminants; assuming it passes, it will be deposited on Goleta Beach as part of a “beach nourishment” program.

The Randall Road debris basin — the scooped-out remains of eight Montecito properties destroyed by the 2018 Debris Flow — is reportedly 50 percent full. The rains of this past week marked its maiden voyage.

The National Guard will be camping out at the Earl Warren Showgrounds for a few weeks, and debris basin operations are continuing around the clock, as long as the weather is good.

The rocks and boulders deposited in the Randall basin — as well as Montecito’s two other smaller basins — were about twice the size of basketballs or smaller, said Scott McGolpin, the County of Santa Barbara’s Public Works director. He said there was very little wood in the basins.

Three creeks had been blocked with steel safety nets designed to prevent large boulders from gathering steam down the creek channels and wreaking havoc on the properties below. It remains uncertain how much material — and what kind — they have blocked and captured during the recent rains. The trails leading up the creeks have reportedly been decimated by the storms and access by foot has been rendered all but impossible. Any initial assessment of the steel nets’ impact will have to rely on drone video.

Anecdotally, McGolpin said that he’d heard that a helicopter survey conducted earlier this week by the Sheriff’s Office indicated that much of the material trapped by the steel nets appeared to be wood.

Aerial view of the Randall Road debris basin in Montecito | Credit: County of Santa Barbara

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