Saying Farewell to the National Guard, and Giving Thanks for Our Debris Basin

By Sharon Byrne   |   January 31, 2023

On Monday, the County held a press conference to thank the California Army National Guard, which has been deployed here since January 12 to clear the Randall Road Debris Basin. Darcel Elliott from Supervisor Das Williams’ office had let us know they were coming, and asked us if the Guard could use our office and meeting hall to station for logistics temporarily. We readily agreed and handed them keys.

Their job was enormous: Clear all the rocks that had fallen into the new Randall Road Debris Basin. Here’s the Debris Basin back in October, just after completion:

Here’s how it looked right after the 1/9 storm, from the County’s monitoring cameras, captured and submitted by Robert Riskin:

Lt. Colonel Lipscomb talked with me about the work the team did. One hundred and two Guard personnel were deployed here, from the 649 Engineering Company and the 185 MP Battalion Headquarters. They’re normally stationed up in Chico. The team was split, where some were deployed here, and some up in Paso Robles to find Kyle Doan, the 5-year-old that’s been missing since 1/9 in San Miguel, swept away from his mother in the flood there. That was heavy work for Lt. Colonel Lipscomb and his team. “Very emotional.” He paused to take a deep breath. “I have a 5-year-old,” he said, softly.

The Guard cleared 15,000 cubic yards of material from the Randall Road Debris Basin by working 24/7. They finished in 11 days, a job originally expected to take two weeks or more. At the press conference, Walter Rubalcava, the head of County Flood Control, expressly thanked the community for accommodating the all-night light and noise required to remove the debris so quickly. Rubalcava also noted that having the Guard deployed at Randall Road freed Flood Control to focus their forces on clearing the Cold Spring, Buena Vista, and Romero Canyon debris basins, as well as the enormous Santa Monica Debris Basin in Carpinteria. Over 500,000 cubic yards of material filled all South Coast debris basins in the 1/9 storm. 

I asked Darcel if she needed help for the press conference for the Guard, and she said they’d love some cake. So off to Jeannine’s I went, where Alison Hardy’s team put together some beautiful cakes for the Guard on behalf of the Montecito Association. Neighbor Tom Boland had inquired how Montecito neighbors could help feed the guard on Sunday. He was there to wish them well with us on Monday. Here he is with Supervisor Williams.

It was amazing to see them all arrayed in front of the newly cleared Debris Basin!

Curtis Skene, who came up with the idea for the Debris Basin, and knew it had to be built, was so happy to see the result. Curtis had been washed out of his home on Randall Road in 1965 and again in 2018. The Debris Basin, in its maiden voyage, had caught a lot of bigger rocks that would have rolled on down through neighbors’ properties all the way to the freeway. It took the entire five years to get the funding, the permits, and all the signoffs from federal and state authorities to construct it. Curtis never waivered for a minute.

We owe the Guard a great debt of thanks, and the County did a great job of pulling together the agency partners to give them that public thank you. 

They really liked the cakes too! 

They’re off now to their next mission, and we wish them well. Adam’s Angels and Carmen Muñoz from the Veterans Building in Santa Barbara provided many meals for the Guard while they worked here. Montecitans provided snacks and meals for them as well, and they sure enjoyed the warm community welcome. 

Let’s hope they get that kind of good treatment everywhere they go.

Sharon Byrne is the Executive Director of the Montecito Association


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