Jun 25, 2018

Santa Barbara, Calif., Adopts New Flood Map

Following devastating winter mudslides, the Southern California county has modified their flood maps to take wildfires into account

Santa Barbara, Calif., adopts new flood map
Santa Barbara, Calif., adopts new flood map

On June 19, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt updated maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that show new flood hazard zones for the Montecito, Calif., area following the devastating Jan. 9 mudslides. Permanent flood insurance rate maps will not be completed for four to five years, but the FEMA maps will serve as interim maps as the county rebuilds.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, the new maps take into account potential impacts from a burned watershed–as the Southern California region frequently faces wildfires–blocked culverts and full debris basins. However, some residents are critical of the maps because grading and debris removal may have changed the topography of the zone since the aerial lidar survey was done on Jan. 16. Many residents and developers are concerned that labeling a shifting area as a high hazard zone can impact insurance rates, property values and property taxes. 

Despite concerns, the board approved the new maps and point to them as guidelines as Santa Barbara and Montecito residents rebuild areas devastated by the Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides.

“As the native vegetation above our community reestablishes itself, we are still at risk and we’re going to be that way for the next few years until the vegetation takes hold,” said Mat Pontes, assistant executive officer for the county. “Tools such as these maps and other maps will help us redesign our structures and, hopefully, build a little more resiliency into our community.”