Update On SCE Clean Up on Tunnel Trail

by Nancy Weiss

Trail Closure 2021
Southern California Edison has applied for a permit for the fall to do road maintenance on the upper dirt “Catway” above the intersection of the Tunnel and Jesusita trails and the Catway. This is Edison’s third project in the Tunnel Trail area since the company’s illegal grading incident in December 2019 which caused extensive damage to the trail and Mission Creek. The Catway project involves roadway improvements on the remaining section Edison had hoped to repair before a stop work order was issued in 2019. The trail is expected to close to accommodate the work: Monday-Friday—maybe Saturday, too—for 10 weeks, at minimum.

Ongoing Cleanup and Restoration
Since early 2020, MCA has been working closely with Edison and regulatory agencies to ensure that Edison remediates Tunnel Trail and Mission Creek and enhances Mission Canyon as compensation to offset their impacts. To date, this multi-year process can be sorted roughly into five projects:
1. Emergency Repairs Winter 2020. Installation of erosion and sediment controls measures and temporary fencing to safeguard trail users. Completed spring 2020.
2. Road and Trail Repairs Fall 2020. Addressed imminent safety and environmental remediation issues: installation of rock drapery, berm construction, removal of rocks/debris from trees, and more. Completed October 2020.
3. Goleta-Santa Barbara Access Road Maintenance. Planned for summer/fall 2021, this access-road maintenance project is unrelated to damage caused in 2019. It awaits county permitting approval. In addition to road maintenance, the project will install about 20 new drains.
4. Stream and Upland Habitat Restoration. This project is meant to remediate the trail and access road, sidecast, and Mission Creek itself. The Creek Habitat Restoration Plan has been through several iterations and is still in development. MCA and numerous agencies are working together to ensure the best possible outcomes.
5. Ongoing Monitoring and Maintenance. These are important elements for years to come as Edison maintains the access road and ensures environmental restoration success. The rock drapery is now considered an “SCE Facility” which is their responsibility in perpetuity.

Mitigation and Compensation Projects in Mission Canyon
Edison has been clear about its commitment to “being an active and equitable community partner” with the Mission Canyon Association as a way to make things right in our watershed. MCA appreciates the utility company has taken responsibility. To date, SCE has fulfilled a prior commitment to voluntarily remove the defunct utility poles along Tunnel Trail, has committed funding for emergency evacuation and circulation improvements on upper Tunnel Road, will be replacing the Mission Creek Bridge deck on Tunnel Trail, and discussions are underway for trailhead improvements and other enhancement projects in the near future.

Separately from the projects above, SCE paid a $3.5 million civil penalty in December 2020, $875,000 of which funded supplemental environmental projects (SEPs). These supplemental projects are in addition to SCE’s remediation work. Some supplemental projects include maintaining the Jesusita and Tunnel trails, revegetating Mission Canyon and Mission Creek with native plants, researching and monitoring the health of Mission Creek, and funding efforts to clean Santa Barbara’s front-country trails and creeks. Funding was also provided to a Fish and Game Preservation Fund and to the County of Santa Barbara’s Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, as well as reimbursing agencies for their costs.

The Future
This process has been extensive and exhaustive, and it will continue for years into the future. MCA’s working group—Selden Edner, Barbara Lindemann, Hugh Twibell, and Marc Chytilo—have spent countless hours with me working with SCE, county staff, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We will continue to be engaged in this process.

View article and full Mission Canyon Association (MCA) Fall 2021 Newsletter

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