Santa Barbara restores a concrete creek to boost biodiversity and water quality

On January 25, 2017, the Creeks Division of the City of Santa Barbara, California finished restoring nearly 5 acres of creek along upper Arroyo Burro in Barger Canyon.

The location is open to the public for guided access through restoration events and tours due to steep slopes and lack of parking. Restoration work included removing concrete structures and debris, widening the creek, and building a new seasonal wetland in the upland area to improve habitat biodiversity.

In late 2013, the Creeks Division purchased a 14.19 acre parcel on Foothill Road. The parcel is an environmentally sensitive, but degraded, site with approximately 1,800 linear feet of creek frontage on both banks of Arroyo Burro. In typical fashion, the creek had been “hardened” by civil engineers, in a misguided attempt at flood prevention. Now, the arroyo has been ecologically restored, which involved removing 300 tons of concrete from the creek channel, and planting native vegetation to improve both water quality and species diversity.

The property is upstream of a significant Creek Tree Restoration project on seven private properties, and includes an important scenic view corridor from Foothill Road up to the Los Padres National Forest.

The purchase also included a conservation easement over a portion of an adjacent property. The conservation easement allows the City to design, restore, and protect an additional 290 linear foot reach of Arroyo Burro. The conservation easement will also prevent future development or land uses near the creek on the adjacent parcel in perpetuity.

Our goal was to recreate a healthy, functioning creek system, which will help improve water quality — not just on this property— but also downstream,” said Cameron Benson, the city’s creeks division manager. “This is a significant restoration project.

Voter-approved Measure B funds funded the $1-million project cost.

Construction was completed in December 2016, and finished ecological restoration–with over 4,500 native plants and trees installed–was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 25, 2017.

See January 27, 2017 NOOZHAWK article by Brooke Holland.

See January 25, 2017 KEYT article about ribbon-cutting.

See City of Santa Barbara website for arroyo restoration + photo credit.

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