The Santa Barbara Attorney’s Office announced Monday that it had reached a settlement with Edison in Southern California to resolve civil and criminal actions resulting from an assessment project that caused significant environmental damage in the Mission Canyon area over the past year .
The criminal and civil lawsuits allege that between December 4 and 16, 2019, SCE conducted an improper road maintenance and widening project along the 1.6 mile Spyglass Ridge Road, which is at the base of the Inspiration Point trail begins Monday by District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
The project involved the use of large construction equipment to scale substantial pieces of rock on the uphill side of Spyglass Ridge Road, classify the road surface, remove vegetation, and classify berms on the downhill side of the road, the statement said .
In December 2019, the work carried out by SCE crews produced a significant amount of rock, sediment and debris down the slopes in Mission Creek and its tributaries, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
SCE did not advocate violating California’s Water Code for discharging a pollutant into Mission Creek, the statement said.
SCE also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $ 3.5 million.
Of this, $ 875,000 will be used to fund additional community environmental projects, including maintaining the Jesusita and tunnel trails, revitalizing Mission Canyon and Mission Creek with native plants, researching and monitoring the health of Mission Creek, and funding cleaning efforts the front of Santa Barbara country lanes and creeks.
The complementary environmental projects set out in the civil ruling complement the remedial work that SCE will carry out in Mission Canyon.
Of the remaining fines, more than $ 1 million will be paid to Santa Barbara County, $ 656,250 to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and $ 656,250 to the Santa Barbara County Fish and Wildlife Reproduction Fund.
SCE will reimburse the Santa Barbara District Attorney for $ 25,000 and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife $ 15,000 for investigation and law enforcement costs.
SCE has agreed to pay a fine of $ 10,000 to the State Water Quality Control Board, the prosecutor said in a statement.
The company also admitted civil liability for several violations of the California Fish and Game Code and California Business and Professions Code.
As part of the civil ruling, Dudley’s office said, SCE must continue to work with regulators to ensure that the damage caused in Mission Canyon is repaired.
The company is working with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the county’s Department of Planning and Development to repair the damage it has done to Mission Canyon and the Mission Creek area.
The SCE spokesman gave Noozhawk the following statement:
“The women and men of Southern California, Edison, take our commitment as good neighbors and environmental leaders very seriously. We failed to meet this commitment in December 2019 when one of our crews caused damage in the Mission Canyon area during required road repairs. We sincerely apologize. “
The SCE statement continued, “Since that time we have worked hard to restore the area with approval and guidance from government agencies and local stakeholders. Some of the improvement projects carried out by SCE include rebuilding berms along the road, installing equipment to reduce the impact of possible rockfall, and removing stones and debris from the road.
“We continue to work with government agencies and the public to plan habitat restoration for Mission Creek in 2021. To date, we have spent thousands of man hours on remediation work. By the end of 2020, we will spend $ 7 million on the total cost of restoration is expected to exceed $ 15 million and SCE will not attempt to recoup these costs.
“We understand the impact of our remediation efforts on the Mission Canyon community and area, and will continue to do our best to minimize the inconvenience as we continue our efforts to restore and improve safety. SCE is committed to continually improving our work practices . ” ensure the safety of our customers, employees and communities while protecting the environment at the same time. “
The company will “not seek reimbursement of these costs through interest rates” to fund various complementary environmental projects, the statement said. “SCE also agreed not to contest a single misdemeanor charge of violating the California Water Code with a fine of $ 10,000.”
SCE unloaded more than 965,110 gallons of Sidecast over the edge of Spyglass Ridge Road into Mission Canyon, according to Dudley’s office.
Of this, approximately 74,044 gallons were discharged into “United States Waters” and approximately 521,756 gallons into “California Waters.”
“SCE’s illegal behavior permanently impacted Mission Creek by altering the river bed and obstructing the flow of water, and it made a lasting impact on the natural environment by carving rocks and vegetation from the mountainside,” prosecutors said. “SCE also caused the permanent loss of some native trees and vegetation and degraded the habitat of some fish, wildlife and, less often, plant communities.”
Prosecutors continued, “In addition, the actions of SCE impacted the entire Santa Barbara community by forcing the closure of one of the county’s most popular recreational areas on multiple occasions.”
The Mission Canyon trail above Santa Barbara was closed to the public while SCE’s construction and road repair project took place this fall.
According to prosecutors, the company has been working with regulators since the December 2019 incident.
On the instructions of the district’s planning and development department, SCE carried out extensive work to improve the security and stability of the area.
The prosecution is committed to prosecuting violations of California’s environmental laws, Dudley said.
“While the decision to prosecute a company is not taken lightly by the prosecution, our office will do so when the underlying conduct warrants such action,” said Dudley. “We believe the solution in this case will reflect the severity of the impact SCE has on our environment. We commend the company for taking responsibility and undertaking to repair the damage caused, and we appreciate the company’s cooperation throughout the investigation. ”
Assistant District Attorneys Morgan Lucas and Christopher Dalbey handled the case, and Assistant District Attorney Brian Cota oversaw the case.