I am writing to provide an update on the Santa Maria River in Guadalupe and the County’s efforts to repair damage and create a safer environment this winter. There is also an opportunity for the community to take action by making their voice heard at the Board of Supervisors meeting this Tuesday, September 12th.
As many of you know, work is ongoing to repair the road to the dunes, but there have also been repeated efforts to engage the state and federal governments through California’s office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Unfortunately, the State and Federal governments have repeatedly denied County requests for assistance in re-channelizing the river or implementing other measures to protect homes, agricultural properties, the wastewater treatment plant, and access to the dunes. Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers recently informed the County that if the course of the river remains as is, come 2025 (2 years after it was altered) the Federal government will consider the new river channel to be permanent and label it as waters of the United States, effectively eliminating the opportunity to take corrective action. Furthermore, the County must signal its intention to restore the river channel within the next several months. The window of opportunity for action prior to the upcoming rainy season is small, and wet El Niño conditions have been forecasted by the National Weather Service.
With time and options running out, County Public Works is seeking to take advantage of an executive order by the Governor that temporarily exempts most state permitting, which is typically challenging and time consuming. They will be presenting an item at the Board of Supervisors meeting this Tuesday, September 12th at the Betteravia Government Center at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria. Public Works is committed to spending $1 million from the flood control fund but does not have the authorization or funds available to spend more without Board action. They are asking the Board to allocate up to $7 million in additional funding to clear vegetation and restore the river channel west of Highway 1. For this request to be granted, a yes vote is required from at least 4 of the 5 County Supervisors. The proposal from Public Works is to remove sediment deposited from last year’s storms and place the material on the southern bank of the river. As part of the initial expenditure, County Fire crews are expected to begin vegetation removal this Monday. The Board Letter with more details can be found here: https://santabarbara.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=6345481&GUID=3AA32479-95C0-494B-A814-401B5EF1B2A5&Options=&Search=
The item is currently listed as last on the agenda, but Chair Williams has agreed to take the item second on the departmental agenda in order to create more time certainty for stakeholders who wish to provide input at public comment (the first item is only scheduled for 5 minutes). The Board meeting begins at 9 am with the administrative agenda, so speakers should arrive prior to 9:30. Public comment is also available via zoom by registering at: https://countyofsb.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WWQSLtA2TbWO8x48vPS19A
Please share this email with others you think would be interested in attending, and if you have any questions, feel free to respond to this email or call me directly at (805) 680-2226. Apologies for the late notice but the item was just posted to the agenda.
Office of Supervisor Steve Lavagnino