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Dredging Operation at Carpinteria Salt Marsh Closes Trails, Beach Access

A Santa Barbara County emergency operation is underway to remove excess debris and sediment from the Carpinteria Salt Marsh to help mitigate flood risk.

Posted on April 12, 2023

Trails and beach access will be closed in the areas surrounding the Carpinteria Salt Marsh until June while Santa Barbara County clears excess debris deposited in the marsh following this year’s storms.

The county began an emergency operation on Monday to remove excess debris and sediment from the Carpinteria Salt Marsh in order to mitigate flood risk.

The beach area within 400 feet of the Carpinteria Salt Marsh mouth will be closed to public access.

As a result of this year’s winter storms, debris has washed down into the salt marsh, blocking the Santa Monica and Franklin creeks, according to the county.

Salt marshes are naturally occurring coastal swaps that protect the coast from erosion by trapping sediment before it washes into the sea, according to the National Ocean Service.

Because of the layers of plant matter that accumulate in the marshes, the terrain is porous and reduces flooding by slowing and absorbing rainwater, as well as filtering water runoff.

When the channels are blocked, the entire city of Carpinteria is left at an increased risk of flooding.

In addition, the blocked waterways mean less water in the salt marsh, which impacts the wildlife that rely on the salt marsh for habitat and foraging.

County Flood Control is working with The Land Trust for Santa Barbara CountyUC Santa Barbara and the City of Carpinteria “to ensure the safety of the community and wildlife and minimize disruption to the community,” according to a press release from Santa Barbara County.

The dredging process involves the use of hydraulic dredge vessels to remove sediment from the blocked drainage channels in the marsh and deposit it at a surf zone where the marsh empties into the ocean.

The dredge vessels will operate up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week to complete the process as soon as possible, according to the county.

Several other dredging operations have taken place following record-breaking rainstorms this year. Debris basins throughout the county collected significant sediment during the storms, which was then cleared and deposited at Goleta Beach.

“In an undeveloped watershed, sediment would naturally find its way to the ocean,” according to the Santa Barbara Public Works Department.”Trucking the sediment and cobble to the beach is an expedited process of what nature would do without human development.”


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