Randall Road Debris Basin Groundbreaking
On Monday, government officials, staff, contractors, and community partners broke ground at the future site of the Randall Road Debris Basin; a project outlined at length two weeks ago in the Montecito Journal.
“It’s amazing we’ve gotten to this point,” said County Public Works Deputy Director Tom Fayram. “A project like this can often take five to ten years to deliver,” he added, thanking staff at the county, elected officials, FEMA staff, and neighbors for their cooperation. Following the Thomas Fire and January 9 Debris Flow, the debris basin project was proposed along Randall Road in Montecito by private interests with the general support of affected property owners in the area.
“We have to thank Curtis Skene for this. This was his idea, and he brought it to us and asked, ‘Can we do this?’ and we’re doing it!” Fayram said.
Other speakers at the event included Congressman Salud Carbajal, First District Supervisor Das Williams, Mr. Skene, and Montecito Fire Protection District Chief Kevin Taylor.
“While a happy occasion, we can’t celebrate without first reflecting back on the tragedy that led us to this moment. Our community will never forget that tragedy,” Chief Taylor said. “This is the result of our community’s commitment to come together and create solutions that minimize the horrific impact from our next debris flow. While not a silver bullet, the Randall Road Debris Basin will substantially increase our community’s safety. The basin will bolster and complement the larger system of existing basins and nets across Montecito, and we are more confident in the safety and security of our community, knowing that this construction is underway.”
The project received approval by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in August 2020 and a $13.5 million grant from FEMA in November 2020. The cost included acquiring six private properties on Randall Road and one on East Valley Road; there is one property owner on Randall Road who has not agreed to sell.
Skene, the Montecito resident who conceived of the idea of the basin and was the driving force in the effort to develop it with the County and State, also experienced the 1969 Debris Flow. He concluded the event by thanking the community and those who worked on the project.
“This is a real day for gratitude. I’m delighted that my fellow neighbors can see all the incredible individuals that made this project happen, like a team,” he said. “I’m a very lucky man. I’ve been able to be part of something to heal and protect my community. It’s not easy, but everybody came together, everybody pulled in the same direction at the same time. It’s incredible.”
V. Lopez Jr. & Sons will serve as the contractor on the project. The estimated project cost of $15.5 million to $17.5 million is funded by FEMA ($13.5 million) and local flood control money. Construction on this project will begin on May 10, 2021 and is expected to finish by the end of the year.