The Santa Barbara County Flood Control District will receive approximately $50,000 from the state for a project that will help strengthen a critical erosion site on the Santa Maria River, the often-dry bed that borders San Luis Obispo County.
The site in question is between Highway 101 and the Suey Road crossing, right near Santa Maria homes, schools, and transportation corridors.
"If the levee breeched in that location, there would be some dire consequences for the city," Deputy Public Works Director Thomas Fayram said.
But Fayram stressed that the work being done is only the beginning of what the river needs, and he's anxious to permanently fix the levee.
"There is a long-term major structural fix of our levy that is needed, and that
is not what we're doing here," he said. "This is a project to keep things functioning until we can get the long-term structural fix."
Fayram estimated that the long-term project would cost $20 million and take several months.
The current project began on Dec. 4 and will cost $100,000 total. It involves getting the main flow away from the levee, as well as enhancing the levee's protection at the critical erosion site.
Santa Barbara County officials expect the project to take three weeks, which should be well in time for a strong winter flow.
Fayram noted that this help from the state is a step in the right direction and may not have occurred before Hurricane Katrina.
"It wasn't until Hurricane Katrina that people at the federal level and the state level started recognizing the importance of levees and the need for funding levee repairs," he said.