Randall Road Debris Basin Ribbon-Cutting

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   November 1, 2022
The Randall Road Debris Basin was built where seven homes were destroyed or damaged during the 1/9 Debris Flow; the massive project was built in a record five-year span

It was a morning nearly five years in the making: on Monday, October 24, government officials, staff, contractors, and community partners celebrated the completion of the Randall Road Debris Basin in Montecito. This project dates back to the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow when community members expressed support for a new debris basin. The project was approved in August 2020, and construction on the $21.3 million project – the largest debris basin in Montecito – began in May 2021.

Community leaders, stakeholders, and those instrumental in securing the funds to build the debris basin gathered for a ribbon-cutting on Monday morning

Stakeholders, neighbors, relatives of those killed in the debris flow, and former homeowners on Randall Road gathered to hear the short ceremony, which included speakers Congressman Salud Carbajal, First District Supervisor Das Williams, California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Manager Salomon Miranda, Public Works Director Scott McGolpin, and County Public Works Deputy Director Walter Rubalcava. Director McGolpin thanked staff, the project’s contractor, V. Lopez Jr. and Sons, and the community for working on a project that will improve safety for the residents of Montecito and the traveling public. “Our Public Works team takes pride in this project that will reduce potential flooding and debris flow impacts at Highway 192 and downstream infrastructure and properties.”

As a former County Supervisor and the region’s federal representative, Carbajal said it was a privilege to work with various agencies and the community to improve regional resiliency. “As we approach the fifth anniversary of those events, I am proud to stand with the County’s public servants and first responders to remember those that lost their lives and their livelihoods. By completing projects that will save lives in the face of worsening climate disasters, we honor those affected by the debris flow and help build a more resilient community.”

“This is a great accomplishment, but we are not done working on your behalf. We need to always be getting better, both in our infrastructure and fire service. We know we have a long-term generational project between here and the ocean to ensure this community is safer. Through this work, we can ensure that future disasters are less likely to be severe and less likely to have such a terrifying loss of life,” Supervisor Williams said, also thanking the rest of the Board of Supervisors for taking a chance on this project, which required acquiring seven properties on Randall Road and one on East Valley Road. Curtis 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, was also in attendance, as were former Flood Control managers Tom Fayram and John Frye, who were instrumental in bringing the basin to fruition. 

The Riskin Partners Estate Group – founding member Rebecca Riskin lost her life during the tragic events of January 9, 2018 – gathered near a memorial in her honor near the Randall Road Debris Basin. Also pictured are retired Flood Control managers Tom Fayram and John Frye.

Future plans for the area surrounding the basin include walking paths for community members, and potentially a formal memorial for the 23 lives lost on January 9, 2018, in the debris flow. 

It was noted that Monday’s event kicked off California Flood Preparedness Week. California Flood Preparedness Week began in 2012 with a single event in Sacramento County and is now in its eleventh year. DWR supports events across the state, working with federal, state, and local agencies to inform Californians about flood risk and preparedness. Miranda highlighted the importance of preparing for potential flooding. “Even though California is entering the fourth year of an extreme drought and conservation is as important as ever, we must remember that flooding can happen at any time, even during drought years.”

With the Randall Road Debris Basin now complete, Rubalcava, the new head of Flood Control, thanked the community, contractors, and local, state, and federal governments that helped see the project to completion. “After the next flood event or wildfire that occurs, the hope is that when the debris comes down that mountain, more of that debris will be captured here, helping to protect the community, the neighborhoods, and the network of roadways down below.”

The project was funded by a FEMA $13.5 million Hazard Mitigation Program Grant and a State $4.5 Community Development Block Grant. For more information on Flood Preparedness Week, visit water.ca.gov. For local resources on flood preparedness, visit countyofsb.org/pwd/floodprep.


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