Monday, April 7, 2008

Leaders applaud Westside storm drain project


City and county leaders celebrated the completion of a decades-old flood control project on Santa Barbara’s Westside on Monday that officials hope will mark the end to an era marked by river-like floods.
The storm drains and subsequent pipelines were installed in three phases dating to 1995 and cost more than $12 million.

“The streets used to just become rivers literally,” said Tom Fayram, deputy director of the County Public Works Department. “It’s a major, major infrastructure improvement on the Westside.”
The project’s third phase concluded in early March after decades of planning by county and city agencies.
Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Helene Schneider, whose home is located within the improvement area, commended the interagency partnership and the patience shown by residents over the years.
Schneider said she moved into her home shortly after completions of phase one, which placed storm drains on Victoria Street to the south and up Chino and Micheltorena streets to the north, with an ending point at Valerio Street.
During phase two construction, which impacted the opposite side of Schneider’s street, she said water pooled up and began to flow during even modest storms. But in front of her home, the water ran smoothly into the drains.
“I’ve seen the benefit on Micheltorena Street,” she said. “It’s really a tremendous infrastructure improvement.”
Phase one was completed in 1996 and came with a price tag of $3.8 million. The longest stretch of improvements occurred during phase two, which runs from Micheltorena Street to the south, moves up Chino Street to Mission, then up Gillespie Street to Portesuello Avenue. This segment was completed in 2006 and cost $5.4 million.
The final phase impacted Valerio Street and curved around to Clearview Road.
In many of the areas, Fayram said no storm drain infrastructure existed prior to the project.
Along with storm drains, Fayram said new pipelines varying in size from 18 to 84 inches in diameter were also installed.
One of the most noticeable beneficiaries of the project is Harding Elementary School, which is located at 1625 Robbins St., at the intersection of phase two and three.
In order to move students around the regular occurring floods, Fayram said the school built a bridge over Robbins Street.
Though all underground work is completed, Schneider said the roads involved in phase three are scheduled to receive a slurry seal in the near future.
She said some of the funds used for the project came from Measure D, but the majority came from county money that was earmarked in the 1970s as a part of the South Coast Flood Control Assessment District.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, whose district includes most of the Westside, said the storm drains will improve the lives of hundreds of nearby residents.
“Seeing a project like this completed is very satisfying,” Fayram said. “We have all seen the difference it has made.”

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