As our neighbors in Ventura and Los Angeles begin to recover from the Woolsey Fire, Montecito community leaders form The Partnership for Resilient Communities
I’m thoroughly impressed with the Montecito community leadership that formed the Partnership for Resilient Communities (PFRC). This non-profit 501(c)(3) was created by community leaders — from emergency responders to elected officials — after the tragic Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow to collaborate with the County of Santa Barbara and rebuild our fine hamlet by doing whatever it takes to avoid a repeat of that natural disaster.
The focus of PFRC’s partnership with Santa Barbara County is on expanding the bandwidth of talent and money available to the County when it comes to natural disasters. The all-volunteer team of local residents and founders of the PFRC includes many of my friends and neighbors. My heartfelt thanks go out to Gwyn Lurie, Brett Matthews, Les Firestein, Alixe Mattingly, Pat McElroy, Ron Pulice, Mary Rose, Joe Cole and all the other volunteers who are working diligently to keep us safe.
PFRC’s Accomplishments to Date
The non-profit is consulting with the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management to understand local debris flow hazard areas and risk assessment. Geohazard experts were retained to advise the County of Santa Barbara and PFRC on the risks remaining in our hills, and possible ways to lessen the destructive impacts of future debris flows. That led to the purchase of LIDAR (extensive military grade topographic mapping) from a private defense contractor.
PFRC examined other similarly distressed communities in Switzerland and Japan to learn what these countries are doing to prevent the damage we experienced. Research in Switzerland led the PFRC team to Kane GeoTech, Inc. The firm specializes in difficult geotechnical solutions to slope stability, debris flow, rock slides, avalanches, and instrumentation technology and manufacturing of slope monitoring systems. GeoTech has partnered with European barrier manufacturer GeoBrugg, to build high-tensile steel nets that snare dangerous debris before it damages homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. Successful GeoBrugg nets have been installed in Switzerland; Washington State; New Mexico; Camarillo, California, and other locations throughout the world.
The group is currently working to secure permission from the U.S. Forest Service to install 16 nets by the end of the year. Because Montecito’s wild canyons and creeks are critical habitats, in order to move forward, the partnership must pull emergency permits from several regulatory agencies: namely Santa Barbara County Flood Control, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which must consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“There is still rock moving up there in the mountains,” said the partnership’s spokesperson, Pat McElroy, who retired as the City of Santa Barbara’s longtime fire chief on March 17. “Essential to all of this, including getting permission and all the permits, is the urgency of it. We’re trying to get ahead of winter.”
3 Part Emergency Solution
PFRC has developed and proposed a 3-Part Emergency Solution:
1) Steel mesh debris nets
2) Enhanced monitoring
3) Accelerated revegetation
Debris Basins and Creek Channel Maintenance
Since last year’s disaster, revegetation has been sparse. Making things worse, our California drought continues. Weather experts predict El Niño conditions this winter will bring higher than average rainfall and intensity. While no one can prevent rain, flood and debris flow, we can leverage best practices from around the world to reduce the impact of the next debris flow.
By working closely with public agencies to activate private, non-profit and government funding, PFRC believes it can get more done, faster.
Cash-hindered County Agency
Historically, mountain mitigation has focused on larger and more sophisticated debris basins as the primary defense against destructive debris flows. The research performed by PFRC uncovered the fact that the County Flood Control has no budget for routine annual maintenance of Montecito’s six inadequate, undersized debris basins. The research also showed that there’s no capital improvement budget to build larger and more efficient debris basins.
The organization concluded that sophisticated debris basins are needed. If approved, the first phase of net installation will be completed before December 31, 2018, prior to the onset of our winter storms.
Because of the hard work of PFRC members, the picturesque town of Montecito has an opportunity to act on warnings, scientific data, and current technologies in an effort to reduce the high potential for future calamitous debris flow in Montecito. Thanks to generous private and philanthropic donors, PFRC is halfway to their goal of raising $5.6M for urgent emergency measures. PFRC continues to work with the County, state, FEMA, US Forest Service, and private experts to find and secure funding for additional short-, medium- and long-term mitigation solutions.
14 Ring Nets in 5 canyons $3,800,000
Monitoring system $100,000
Engineering, plans, permitting $600,000
Expertise and Personnel $500,000
Vegetation regrowth $100,000
Performance bond for cleaning out nets $500,000
Doing Our Part
Now is the time to contribute! Interested? Send checks payable to the Santa Barbara Foundation, earmarked for the Partnership for Resilient Communities, mailed to PFRC, P.O. Box 5476, Montecito, CA 93150, or make an online donation. Generous donors in Montecito have pledged to match individual contributions up to a maximum of $500,000 to kick-start the campaign.
Supporting the Partnership for Resilient Communities is one of the many ways we in Montecito can ensure the beauty, safety and property values for which our incredible community is world-renown. I’d like to personally thank the Montecito Community Leadership for all their efforts.
If you don’t currently reside full- or part-time in Montecito, you should consider acquiring property here. It’s a fantastic place for a home or home away from home. Give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at Cristal@montecito-estate.com if I may be of assistance with your residential purchase or sale. My portfolios of distinctive homes for sale and sold in the area are excellent places to begin the dialogue.