Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 11:26 am | Fair 57º


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Lake Cachuma Board OKs Plan to Move Pumping Barge to Deeper Spot

Plans to move the Lake Cachuma emergency pumping barge were unanimously approved by the five members of the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board on Monday after concerns that conflicting interests could cause a delay.

The board — COMB, for short — has used the pumping facility to supply South Coast water agencies —​ Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria — since August, but the lake levels are dropping to the point that the barge needs to be moved to a deeper spot.

The pumping barge’s current location can’t work after the lake elevation drops to 658 feet, and the forecast has Cachuma hitting that level in early July, according to COMB documents. 

Contractors need 90 days of notice to move the barge so a decision had to be made now.

At a recent Santa Barbara City Council meeting, water resources manager Joshua Haggmark told the City Council that Santa Ynez representative Kevin Walsh was a holdout in the vote, and City Attorney Ariel Calonne said the city would bring litigation if Walsh didn’t support the barge move. 

On Monday, Walsh said he was never really opposed to moving the barge but wanted guarantees that protect downstream water rights so another large release can be made this summer as planned.

Walsh represents the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, ID No. 1, and asked for an amended resolution that says COMB won’t pump past a 656-foot lake elevation, so that there is enough pressure to release water downstream.

The amendment works for everyone’s advantage since a higher lake level allows a downstream release and keeps the pump working, said Bruce Wales, general manager of the parent organization, the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District.

This summer’s release is “very significant to us,” he said. “It’s probably our last big release until it rains a lot again.”

The release of water to Santa Ynez River customers is expected to lower the lake level by about 10 feet.

COMB members and legal counsel spent more than an hour tinkering with the wording of Walsh’s proposed amendment before it was approved along with the plan to move the barge.

The new location will be near the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area at the western end of the lake, and COMB budgeted $903,000 for relocating the barge.

Pumping would become more limited when Lake Cachuma reaches a minimum pool with a 643-foot elevation, which is also dramatically known as the "dead pool."

“After reaching minimum pool, the lake will still function as a means of conveying State Water Project water to the pumping barge, from where CCWA delivers it at Bradbury Dam,” according to COMB.

“This conveyance of SWP water through the lake is expected to remain feasible for more than a year, without the need for a connecting pipeline or modifications to the pumping barge.”

Board members were relieved to have the barge relocation approved.

“The need is clear, the time is now, the vote is yes,” said Lauren Hanson of the Goleta Water District. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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