Op-Ed: Heal the Ocean Responds to Ring Net Removal

Ring Nets in Montecito [Photo: The Project for Resilient Communities (TPRC)]

Regarding the “Ring Nets” installed in the canyons above Montecito in response to the disastrous mudslide of January 9, 2018:

As the Executive Director of an environmental organization in Santa Barbara, I joined the Board of The Project for Resilient Communities (TPRC) to watch the proceedings from an environmental point of view.

The Ring Nets were installed as a response to a major disaster, and to stop a future one. Expert biologists were hired to ensure the wildlife could get under and around the nets. The TPRC raised millions to ensure science, geology and environment were in place.

“They didn’t work,” is an idiotic phrase when there are photos and video documentation of a net in San Ysidro Canyon filled with the remnants of a debris flow in January – this year. For those who have forgotten the floods of January 2023, a look at this New York Times article may refresh the memory: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/17/us/montecito-mudslide-2018-california-storms.html

The failure of the County to ensure the maintenance of these nets is foolhardy. We on the Santa Barbara south coast have not experienced the El Niño to come, the floods to come, the forest fires to come, the future to come. Climate change IS happening, and we are seeing, as the old song says, “…the mountains crumbling to the sea.”

Good environmental work is to ensure our day to day activities are not harming the environment, and our work is to improve those processes the best we can. Disasters that kill people are another thing entirely. That the County didn’t pick up where a group of dedicated people raised millions to protect the community from future Climate Change disasters is unbelievable.

Hillary Hauser, Executive Director
Heal the Ocean

Op-Ed’s are written by community members, not representatives of edhat. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors.

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Written by healtheocean

Heal the Ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure – sewers and septic systems – as well as ocean dumping practices that have contributed to ocean pollution. They are focused on Santa Barbara County, but their methods now serve as a model for other coastal communities across the country. Learn more at https://www.healtheocean.org/

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  1. You wrote: “That the County didn’t pick up where a group of dedicated people raised millions to protect the community from future Climate Change disasters is unbelievable.”

    You’ve been involved with local government on the inside and out for decades. (And thank you for that!) You should know better. It’s not “unbelievable”, it is what it is. The city and the county staff, although well-meaning, dedicated professionals, have failed miserably at infrastructure planning, implementation, and maintenance forever. Oftentimes it’s not their fault and the blame goes to elected officials who sit there and yap and yap and yap and then blame lack of funding.

    But it’s not just a funding problem, it is a prioritization issue.

    • I don’t know for sure but Hauser seems to have a personal interest in this project that may interfere with the objectivity that she would bring to other similar expensive infrastucture meddling with natural processes. In any event, the cost of the benefit obtained for Montecito has to be weighed for the much greater benefits that might be obtained for others in the county. Government does not have unlimited funds to expend on every “good idea” that comes along. And, as noted before, Montecito has held several fund raisers recently to benefit public safety groups. It would seem more appropriate that they use such money to benefit their own neighborhood before asking the greater community to do so.

    • SBTONER – so now you oppose your tax dollars going to protect rich people? Not everyone in Montecito is “wealthy” and even so, so what? Why shouldn’t the County pay for safety measures for them?

      Is there anything at all you don’t complain about?

  2. Yeah, I’m surprised as well to see this from Hauser. This is classic meddling with natural processes, unsuccessfully, and then looking for taxpayers to keep the experiment going. I don’t care of it we’re in the poorest community’s watershed – it filled up already, blocks fish passage, and when the next debris flow comes that little net is unlikely to do diddley. The volume of debris that came down during the Montecito debris flow had to have been many orders of magnitude greater than what these nets are currently holding back, and they’re already full. The scientists have given their input. I agree with them. This OpEd unfortunately undermines HTO’s credibility. Streams and rivers need to flow to the ocean. Making dams and diversions like this might sound good to the lay person who feels bad about what happened, or the person who may be in harms way because they live next to a creek. That’s understandable, but the fact is there’s zero evidence this will do anything, except cause more problems. Hilary and McElroy don’t get that apparently.

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