West Coast
Bulldozers work at Carpinteria Beach at Ash Avenue to place sediment transported by truck from the Santa Monica flood control basin. CITY OF CARPINTERIA

CA - Ash Avenue beach dumping under review

Walk out to the beach at the end of Ash Avenue and what do you find? If it is not high tide, you see huge ribbons of rocks ranging from pebbles to softball-sized and even larger. They fill this section of the beach, and require a detour to get around, or ninja-like care to walk across. These are the remnants from the most recent round of sediment dumping on the beach almost a year later.

A year ago, the sediment dumped on this beach was from the Santa Monica Debris Basin, and that included much of the rock that remains there today. In 2018, in the immediate aftermath of the debris flow and flooding following the Thomas Fire, sediment from both the debris basin and the creek channels in the Carpinteria Salt Marsh was dumped on this beach. This removal of sediment was urgently needed to reduce the chance of additional debris flows and flooding, and the beach was the most expedient disposal location.

Over these past two years, all this work, along with the dump trucks driving though Carpinteria and leaking mud along the way, was done under emergency permits. This means the work was done with little or no analysis of the potential impacts because it was so critical and urgent to clear the debris basin and the creek channels to avoid more flooding if additional heavy rains arrived.

Our mountains are well into their recovery from the Thomas Fire, and the expected amount of debris and sediment that might be washed down by a large rain event is much less. Therefore, flood control planning is now proceeding with full analysis of the activities rather than under emergency permits.

One key agency responsible for part of this work is the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District.

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Mike Wondolowski is president of the Carpinteria Valley Association (CarpinteriaValleyAssociation.org), a local organization dedicated to maintaining the small beach town nature of our community. In his 30 years of involvement in planning issues, he has witnessed visionary successes, as well as decisions that were later widely regretted. When not stuck indoors, he can often be found enjoying Carpinteria’s treasures including kayaking and snorkeling along the coast, running or hiking on the bluffs or the Franklin Trail, or “vacationing” as a tent camper at the State Beach.