County estimates $55.4 million in fire, mudslide costs

In the latest report, the county’s share of expenses was estimated at $12.3 million

Photo by Urban Hikers Santa Barbara County has spent an estimated $46 million on debris removal and other emergency response work following the Thomas Fire in December and Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow.

By Giana Magnoli

Noozhawk Managing Editor

The Board of Supervisors received a report March 13 on the cost of debris removal and recovery efforts for the Jan. 9 Montecito debris flows, on the same day many South Coast communities were under a mandatory evacuation order for a rainstorm that ultimately weakened as it hit Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara County’s latest cost estimates total $55.4 million, with most of that expected to be reimbursable from the federal and state governments.

The Board of Supervisors voted last month to use $6.25 million from the strategic reserve fund to help cover costs until the county is reimbursed for some of its emergency expenses.

In the latest report, the county’s share of expenses was estimated at $12.3 million.

“The 1/9 Debris Flow impacted approximately 50 miles of county roads, 200 culverts, and 20 bridges. Following the event, approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material was removed from roads and cleared from bridges,” according to a staff report written by Cost Recovery Manager Andrew Myung.

Removing debris from roads, culverts and bridges “will be an ongoing activity for the next three to five years,” according to the report.

County recovery priorities include restoring utilities, flood control assets, bridges and roads; removing debris from public property and facilitating cost-effective debris removal from private property; helping property owners through the rebuilding permitting process; and mitigating traffic impacts to Montecito due to road and bridge closures.

Supervisors also approved the Santa Barbara Bowl’s request to allow additional events during its season to benefit Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide recovery and relief efforts.

A recent Jack Johnson benefit concert was sold out, and a May 19 benefit concert by Santa Barbara native Katy Perry, “Witness: Coming Home,” has also been announced.

The Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation is “close to confirming with a few other artists about hosting similar shows,” according to a county staff report.

The venue at 1122 N. Milpas St. has an agreement to hold no more than 37 commercial event performances each year, and the supervisors’ vote allows up to four more events to host Montecito benefit concerts.