Santa Barbara County has pulled the plug on plans to construct storm drains on Del Playa Drive over Winter Break due to concerns that Governor Schwarzenegger will make cuts to grant money in his budget reforms.
The county’s Public Works Dept. had planned to construct three continuous deflective separation units – designed to strain solid trash from runoff water before it reaches the ocean – on DP during UCSB’s Winter Break. These units would be in addition to an existing unit, which was installed in January 2003 at the corner of El Embarcadero and DP. The Public Works Dept. estimates the cost of the completed project to be about $350,000 to $450,000. The majority of the funding from the project comes from a $2.1 million California Coastal Conservancy grant, which was awarded over a year ago under Governor Gray Davis.
Cathleen Garnand, a civil engineer at the Public Works Dept., said Schwarzenegger’s election means the county has to be careful with its spending in case the grant money is retracted.
“We didn’t want to start construction and be caught with a hole in the ground and not to be able to fund building the units,” Garnand said. “We can’t start building until we have some level of confidence that the money is real.”
The California Coastal Conservancy’s grant department is expected to report the future of the grant in the coming weeks, Garnand said.
“So far, so good,” she said. “Everything looks like it is smoothing out and we are pretty sure we will be building units in the spring — it’s easier to do it, logistically, when most of the students aren’t here.”
The availability of funds would depend on Schwarzenegger’s plans for the state budget, said Mark Chaconas, an assistant to 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall.
“This storm drain problem is really just symptomatic of problems and uncertainties all over the state budget,” he said. “The bottom line is that if a project isn’t nailed to the floor, like this one, it’s vulnerable to being taken away by the lack of funds in the state.”
The proposed drainage units would be installed at the intersections of DP and Camino Pescadero, DP and Camino Del Sur, and on DP between Camino Del Sur and Camino Corto.
The county reviewed bids from local contractors in December for the project. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to reject all of the contract bids since the project is postponed until the funds are guaranteed by the state.
The Board of Supervisors also approved $1.6 million in cuts Monday in its discretionary spending budget, which Chaconas said would likely not be the last cuts the county will see.
“The vehicle licensing fees are a source of a loss of revenue, so we might see a loss in funding for things like public health, roads and public safety services,” Chaconas said.
Garnand said the drain installation is one of several projects that may be postponed due to state budget cuts.
“The county is in an awkward position,” Garnand said. “We are staring in the face of large deficits when there are a lot of projects we’d like to see initiated.”