Massive Flooding at El Capitan Canyon leads to Evacuations for Sherpa Burn Area
In an urgent Message from the Office of Emergency Management: An Evacuation Warning has been issued for the greater Sherpa Fire Burn area by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department beginning 4 am Sunday.
The Santa Barbara Independent covered the floods at El Capitan Canyon on January 20 that washed away five cabins and 15 cars, with more photos here in the story by Noozhawk. The LA Times has more photos, and the Santa Maria Times has video with rescue workers and gushing water. Here's more video from January 20 at El Capitan Canyon. People in the cabins and campground were rescued with a tracked vehicle, with tank-like treads.
In addition, the historic Orella adobes suffered extensive damage. Gaviota Coast Conservancy board member and descendant of the Presidio founder who built those homes, Guner Tautrim, shared his view from Orella Ranch on January 20, "Today was crazy!! We didn't experience the insane rain fall amounts or intensity but we sure suffered the effects of it. At my place we only measured 2" of rain total (all day) versus the 2" in an hour at Bobby's place. All that upslope rain on the fire-scarred terrain reeked havoc down here. El Cap is totally destroyed. Way way way worse then the fires. Carnage all up the canyon. And Corral Canyon - Las Floras (Exxon Mobil) got a major flushing as well. Sadly the historic Ortega adobes (my great-great-great-grandfather's house) got destroyed. A pile of debris. Venadito Canyon is pretty damaged as well, with lots of mud, blocked culverts and the like. To think more is coming is pretty scary."
Fellow Gaviota Coast resident Bobby Hazard reported on January 20, "Checking the County auto rain gauge at the top of the pass, we had 3 inches between 7 and 10pm, but 1.9 inches in one hour from 8-9. Amazing; it's never happened in my 40 years up here. The creek looks completely different in many places. As with many such things, there is a silver lining. Our springs are flowing after years of not and my neighbor's well has 30 feet more water in it than before. The creek that was choked with invasive growth is cleaned out and open to the sun. And Refugio Beach has lots of new sand."
From the SB County Office of Emergency Communications:
Following winter weather warnings from the National Weather Service for Santa Barbara County, an evacuation warning has been issued from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff for areas burned in the Sherpa Fire (June 2016) including El Capitan Canyon, El Capitan Ranch, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State Beach, Refugio Canyon, Canada Venadito Canyon, del Coral, and Las Flores Canyon (see enclosed map). The warning is in place for Sunday, January 22 beginning at 4 a.m.
An evacuation warning means there is a strong likelihood that there will be a risk to life and property, and residents in the warning area should take this time to prepare to leave quickly if given a mandatory evacuation order. Time should be taken to gather family members, pets, valuables, and important paperwork/documents. An individual or family should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. However, if anyone feels threatened, do not wait for an evacuation order – leave immediately.
In addition, advisories issued today from the National Weather Service include a high wind warning in place through Monday, January 23, and a flash flood watch on Sunday, January 22 from the early morning until the afternoon for all areas of Santa Barbara County, not just the burn areas.
El Capitan and Refugio state parks are currently closed, as well as the northbound Hwy 101 off ramp at El Capitan.
The public is encouraged to avoid going out in the storm and to stay off the roads. As a precaution, do not walk through flood waters. It only takes six inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 911 for help.
Do not drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade. Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide many hazards, such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in a matter of seconds. Twelve inches of water can float a car or small SUV and 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.
The Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center has been activated as well as the Joint Information Center to provide county residents and visitors with updated information regarding flash flooding and debris flow hazards.
Naples Townsite Project Status Report
Today there are two active development proposals on the historic Naples townsite.
Between Paradiso’s two lots and the Santa Barbara Ranch project, lie 57 acres with 25 substandard “Naples Townsite” lots. Owned by the Paradiso developers and formerly the western end of the Arco-Dos Pueblos Golf Course, the lands are bounded by Cañada Tomate and the Paradiso project to the east, Highway 101 to the north, the Santa Barbara Ranch fence line to the west, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Developers propose to build seven large houses on these lands – four between the ocean and the railroad, and three between the railroad and Highway 101. These former oilfield lands have high quality habitat that includes wetlands, native grasslands, white-tailed kites and grasshopper sparrows. The entire site is visually prominent when you are traveling along Highway 101 and the railroad.
The CBAR (Central Board of Architectural Review) conceptually reviewed the developer’s preliminary designs for the seven proposed homes earlier this year. If you drive by the site, you’ll see that the developer is currently drilling shallow wells to test septic system suitability. The project’s full development application is expected to be submitted to the County in early 2017. It will be a two- to three-year process that will include preparation of an EIR, a public comment period, and County processing of permits through the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and Coastal Commission. Gaviota Coast Conservancy and its ally, Surfrider Foundation, will scrutinize every detail of this project at every step of the way to prevent inappropriate development in this sensitive coastal area.
The public does not currently have a legal right to go onto these lands, but can view them from the Santa Barbara Ranch fence line (to get there, park on Dos Pueblos Canyon Road by the southbound 101 on-ramp and follow the trail around the gate and onto Langtry Avenue and over the railroad tracks, then veer left/east toward the fence line) or from the Seals Trail).
In another part of the Naples Townsite, a different developer is proposing development on lot numbers 66 and 69, relying on the 2008 Santa Barbara Ranch project preliminary approval that has not been finalized by the County or reviewed by the Coastal Commission. The developer has proposed to build two large homes on a bluff-top lot and a lot north of the railroad. This application remains incomplete, and will likely need an EIR before any development can be considered.
If you are interested in visiting the Naples area, the public can legally access Santa Barbara Ranch, with the exception of lots 66 and 69, by parking on Dos Pueblos Canyon Road by the southbound 101 on-ramp and following the trail around the gate and onto Langtry Ave. and over the railroad tracks down to the beach. The Seals trail also offers access from the fence along the southbound side of the freeway, across the railroad and west to the beach access path. Views of the Paradiso property are available from both Langtry Ave. and the Seals Trail, but the public cannot legally access the property itself.
The genesis of the GavPlan began in 1999 with the initiation of the National Park Service study of the creation of a National Seashore on the Gaviota Coast, https://www.nps.gov/pwro/gaviota/. While this study found that the Coast was suitable for inclusion in the National Park system, George Bush and local landowners felt otherwise and the creational of a National Seashore on the Gaviota Coast died a contentious death in 2004.
The opposition to the National Seashore formed around the “Common Ground” process, a process led by landowners that failed to find much common ground in a series of boisterous meetings, but did agree on the concept of “local control” as the fundamental organizing principal.
As the Common Ground process was proving to be fruitless, a group of its members and stakeholders formed the Study Group in 2001. The 14 members of this group meet twice a month for a number of years, ultimately issues a report “Respecting Our Heritage, Determining Our Future” in the fall of 2005, http://ocpc.msi.ucsb.edu/pdfs/GCSG.pdf. The report offered a comprehensive plan for the long-term preservation of the Gaviota Coast and its agricultural productivity. This report fell on deaf ears at the Board of Supervisors under the leadership of Brooks Firestone.
Doreen Farr, an advocate of the Study Group process, replaced Brooks Firestone and in 2009 initiated the Gaviota Planning Advisory Committee (GavPAC) to prepare an updated to the local coastal plan. The Committee produced a balanced plan offering a fair compromise on environmental, agricultural, public access, and development issues. It should serve the public well in the coming decades.
Barney Brantingham of the Santa Barbara Independent joined Gaviota Coast Conservancy docents for a tour of the Gaviota Coast aboard a vintage railcar on November 5. The trip was a fundraiser for Gaviota Coast Conservancy. Here's Barney, on spending the day riding a vintage rail car along the Gaviota Coast.
On Election Day, November 8, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the Gaviota Coast Plan, as documented here by the Santa Barbara Independent, in their story, Gaviota Plan Stamped, Signed, and Delivered. Gaviota Coast Conservancy was fundamentally involved, and is pleased with this result, after seven years with the GavPAC and 130 meetings... although it's really been about three decades of conversation. Thanks to Dorreen Farr (who championed this project in her district), Janet Wolf, and newly-elected US Congressmember Salud Carbajal!
Wins and Losses
Local Efforts Help Protect Gaviota Coast, While Presidential Election Raises Concerns
It’s been an interesting Fall on the Gaviota Coast. After seven years and 130 public meetings, the Board of Supervisors approved the Gaviota Coast Plan, which establishes forward-looking strategies to balance protection of the many environmentally sensitive areas of the Gaviota Coast, preservation of viable agriculture, and development. The Conservancy’s former President, Phil McKenna, and Board member Guner Tautrim (who is the 6th generation of his family to farm and ranch on the Gaviota Coast), served as a members of the Gaviota Planning Area Committee and helped create the Plan and shepherd it through the long public participation process.
We also saw the resolution of the Paradiso proposed project to develop two residential lots on the eastern Gaviota Coast. The Conservancy has been part of a decades-long fight over the project, and without staunch advocacy, it would now be a golf course in a very visible portion of Coast.
We successfully fought for and won:
- interim access to the Seals Trail and to the beach until a permanent trail is available;
- a ban on extending the water pipeline onto Naples;
- as well as protection and monitoring of white-tailed kites and seals and sea lions that use the beach below the Paradiso bluffs as a haul out and rookery.
The two Paradiso lots were recently put up for sale and join the three other coastal properties on the eastern Gaviota Coast that are on the market: Las Varas Ranch, the coastal portions of Dos Pueblos Ranch, and Santa Barbara Ranch. This presents a potential opportunity for permanent protection from development for significant portions of the Gaviota Coast that are closest to an urban population. Gaviota Coast Conservancy will explore a wide range of options for protecting this rural habitat within 20 minutes of downtown Santa Barbara, Goleta, and the University.
In 2017, the Conservancy will continue to be an advocate for protecting the Gaviota Coast, raising critical issues of concern over the flawed project at the Tajiguas Landfill, as well as the proposal for seven more homes on Naples lots. And we will continue our work with landowners who share our vision for a rural Gaviota Coast, and who want to expand coastal access opportunities.
The recent presidential election does not bode well for environmental protection at the federal level. It reminds us that we can protect the places we love when committed individuals and communities take a stand at the local level. It is up to all of us to be vigilant and strategic advocates for the Gaviota Coast.
Thank you for your stalwart support,
President, Gaviota Coast Conservancy
Powerful forces continue to develop on the Gaviota Coast, but at every turn Gaviota Coast Conservancy stands up and advocates for protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations, as we have for decades. Here's a copy of our annual appeal letter, with a summary of Gaviota news below, before the upcoming Coastline newsletter. We're grateful for your donations, now, at year's end, and especially on #GivingTuesday (11/29).
(Gaviota Coast, image by Land Trust for Santa Barbara County)
Today, Gaviota Coast Conservancy is engaged in over 20 projects, campaigns and issues, all of which are focused on stopping harmful projects and finding permanent solutions to protecting Gaviota’s ecosystems and preserving its distinct rural character.
While some challenges are new, others have been simmering (and occasionally boiling) for well over a decade. Here are the highlights:
- The 128-year saga of Naples took a turn when a new owner of two coastal lots applied to build two massive residential complexes, complete with de rigueur barns, pools and guest houses. We objected to the project at the Board of Architectural Review, and were rewarded by Board members’ comments agreeing that the project is ill-suited to Naples and unripe for review, given the multitude of hurdles any such development faces. GCC believes these out-of-place houses should not, and will not, ever be built. Developers’ dreams will fail in the face of implacable opposition to inappropriate development.
- Six years in the making, the Gaviota Coast Plan was adopted by the County Supervisors on November 8. The plan provides a streamlined permitting process for many small scale agricultural endeavors, elevates protection of the public viewsheds along the coast, reaffirms the importance of the Coastal Trail and inland access, develops innovative design guidelines for appropriate development, and bars potential development of a large community on the Cojo-Jalama Ranch north of Point Conception. The Coastal Commission is expected to conduct its review of the plan in 2017.
- At long-last, Highway 101 between the Goleta city limits and the Highway 1 turnoff to Lompoc is poised to be a state-designated California Scenic Highway. The Conservancy served an integral role in this designation, providing considerable support to the County. The designation provides another level of recognition to the irreplaceable scenic character of the Coast.
- The County is poised to commit over $120,000,000 to a risky new venture to “cook” South Coast trash in a massive anaerobic digester on top of the Tajiguas Landfill. GCC has advocated for the closure of this landfill for a decade but the County’s solid waste department has pursued extending its life and perpetuating the presence of trash trucks on the Gaviota Coast by siting the so-called Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project at the landfill. Anaerobic digestion of trash is a risky technology that has yet to be proven as financially feasible when used with general household and commercial waste. A key problem is the contamination of compost that is otherwise needed for agricultural use and to combat global warming through carbon farming. If (when) the project fails, disposal costs will rise even higher, and virtually guarantee the expansion of the landfill into an adjoining coastal canyon. With the help of two leading solid waste consultants, we are making the case that enhanced recycling and traditional compost facilities will be much more effective and less costly, eliminating the risk of a disastrous outcome for the project.
- A generous landowner is poised to construct a missing segment of the Coastal Trail to create the first new Gaviota Coast coastal access in decades. More to follow as the details become finalized.
But we need your help! Help us sustain these efforts through a generous, tax deductible donation. We promise to use your money to defend the environmental and cultural integrity of the Gaviota Coast. Every dollar helps. Thanks!
For the Gaviota Coast,
Mike Brown, President
Gaviota Coast Conservancy Statement on the Gaviota Coast Plan before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, November 8
(Santa Barbara, CA) On Tuesday, November 8, the Board of Supervisors will consider approving the Gaviota Coast Plan (GCP) and its Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The GCP updates the County’s General Plan, Local Coastal Plan and zoning ordinance for the Gaviota Coast Plan Area, which spans the relatively undeveloped stretch of coastline between Goleta and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GCP provides policy guidance and actions regarding natural and cultural resources stewardship, agriculture, parks, recreation and trails, land use, visual resources, and transportation, energy and infrastructure.
The County began the process of developing this long-term land use plan for the Gaviota Coast in 2009 by establishing the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee (GavPAC) to develop a draft plan. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy was engaged throughout the process from the beginning, with two board members sitting on the GavPAC. Phil McKenna, Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board member and appointed member of the GavPAC, explained, “The Gaviota Coast Plan is the product of an exhaustive stakeholder process that included many different perspectives. It reflects a vision that preserves the rural character that is the essence of the Gaviota Coast, encourages sustainable agriculture while protecting biological resources and allows limited development while promoting enhanced recreational opportunities for the public.”
GavPAC’s draft plan was refined by County staff and the Planning Commission, and initiated for environmental review by the Board in 2013. After receiving public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the Planning Commission reviewed the proposed final Gaviota Coast Plan, final EIR, and recommended that the Board approve the Plan.
The proposed Gaviota Coast Plan offers creative regulatory relief for small scale, sustainable agricultural endeavors while significantly protecting natural and cultural resources. The coastal and inland trail system is comprehensively envisioned, and Plan policies advance the creation of a world-class trail network along the Gaviota Coast, and up to and along the ridge-line of the Santa Ynez mountains. Visual resource protections are enhanced with the creation of a new Critical Viewshed Corridor, and important guidance is provided for residential development in the new Site Design Hierarchy.
Guner Tautrim, a 6th generation Gaviota Coast farmer, Gaviota Coast Conservancy board member and appointed member of the GavPAC, sought to promote policies and programs into the GCP that help small farmers hold onto their land and continue farming. “Farmers need to be creative to sustain agriculture on lands that are so desirable for development. I want to keep this land in productive agriculture for future generations and leave a legacy of a rural and rustic Gaviota Coast.”