By Pat McElroy, Brett Matthews, Joe Cole, Elisabeth Fowler, Damon Taugher, Alixe Mattingly, and Hillary Hauser with the Project for Resilient Communities
It is with great disappointment to inform you that when the five-year emergency permits expire, the Project for Resilient Communities will need to remove the six debris flow “Swiss nets” in the canyons above Montecito by December 1.
Without strong local government support and budget for the six nets that may have to be cleaned out, without a guarantee that FEMA would cover those future costs, our small nonprofit cannot carry the risk associated with running a portion of a flood control system.
We feel strongly that the nets are an innovative approach to augmenting the existing Flood Control program and had hoped that the County would and could take over management of the nets going forward (monitoring and cleaning), but we are too far apart to come to an agreement in the sliver of time left for us to meet the conditions of our permits.
Our goal from the beginning of this public-private partnership was to create the most cutting-edge and innovative system possible to enhance our community’s resiliency, funded entirely by private contributions, and then to efficiently transfer these important community assets to local, state, and regional authorities as part of the County’s safety and public works system to help ensure the protection of our community. The extension of the permits and the county accepting the debris flow protection system of six nets as part of the system was always paramount.
To now remove the nets is a most difficult decision, reached only after many months of good faith effort and discussion, but we have been unable to reach an agreement with the County, and we cannot continue to rely on private donations from the community to sustain this work.
The changing climate has increased the high probability of increases in the frequency of the fire/flood cycle that is a feature of life in our county. We must keep planning, and not forgetting, that we have a responsibility to be resilient in our communities, to face the challenges that are surely coming, and to do all we can to lessen the impact. We will continue our effort to support the county in any and all ways going forward. And we feel confident in the county’s existing flood-control basins and manpower, and knowing that much has been learned over the last five years.
The nets initiative could not have happened without a supportive and resilient community and brilliant people coming together. From conception to installation to a proven mitigation solution, the debris basin nets were a worthy initiative and the mission was accomplished.
We are humbled by the incredible collaboration and coordination over the last five years, of every person, expert, donor, and public agency involved, as well as the leadership of some of our elected officials. We together created an historic achievement in a highly protected environment and the The Project for Resilient Communities playbook will continue to serve communities nationwide.
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