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Goleta Water District Dings UCSB with a Letter of Its Flaws

Board cites inaccuracies, misinterpretations in elements of university's long-range development plan

The Goleta Water District board of directors voted Friday to send UCSB a toughly worded comment letter about the university’s development plans.

The vote was 4-0. Director Jack Cunningham was absent.

“During the scoping and initial research period of the draft environmental impact report, the district was not asked to participate in the development of the (Draft Environmental Impact Report),” the letter asserts. “Because of this, the district believes the (recirculated draft environmental impact report) present incomplete data regarding both current and future water supplies and demands.”

UCSB has embarked on the approval process for its Long-Range Development Plan, which aims to increase enrollment by 5,000 by 2025, to a total of 25,000 students. Because of local concern over the plan’s environmental impact report, UCSB recirculated the elements that discussed, among other things, housing, traffic and water. Local agencies that anticipate impacts from the development have been commenting on the recirculated EIR.

Among the issues the Goleta Water District points out in its letter are what the board is calling misinterpretations and incorrect citations of district documents used to discuss water supply; rights that UCSB claims to the water supply that the agency says are subject to modification; and under- and overestimations that UCSB makes on demand and supply of water. Click here to read the letter.

UCSB is one of the region’s largest employers, contributing an estimated 10 percent — about $1 billion — to the local economy. Its plans are to enhance education by attracting more graduate students as well as supply the needed housing for the faculty and staff needed to support the increased student body.

The university is also the Goleta Water District’s single-biggest customer. According to the district, UCSB’s demand for water at buildout would exceed the agency’s ability to supply it.

“Our goal was to write constructive comments that will be useful to UCSB in their planning process, and we believe we have done that,” said Lauren Hanson, chairwoman of the district’s UCSB Relations Committee. “As the responsible agency for water, we hope to work more closely with the university going forward.

“UCSB is a vital and vibrant place renowned for its sensitivity to environmental and global climate change issues. We want to see a campus that truly sets the standard for sustainability and respectful interaction with the community.”

The university’s plans are still subject to the UC Regents and the state Coastal Commission.

Comment period for the recirculated environmental impact report ends Monday. Click here for more information on UCSB’s Long-Range Development Plan, or to comment on the recirculated report.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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