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Local News


Cachuma Board May Wait for Winter Rains Before Moving Lake Pumping Barge

The Lake Cachuma emergency pumping facility project has been operating for a month now, and water agency leaders are hoping to delay moving the pumping barge to deeper water.

Santa Barbara County water agencies funded the project through the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board, which manages the reservoir.

After two weeks of operations, the facility used automatic pumping to meet demand for Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria water customers.

Demand during September — which included several heat waves — averaged 59 acre-feet per day, or 19 million gallons, according to COMB interim general manager Janet Gingras.  

COMB members expect to move the pumping barge to deeper water as the lake’s elevation drops. With the projected El Nino this winter, it’s possible the agency could wait until March.

“Let’s give nature a chance to roll the rain dice this winter,” said Kevin Walsh, who represents the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1.

He noted that Santa Barbara and Montecito could help delay moving the barge since they still have water stored in San Luis Reservoir. Each 1,000 acre-foot of water would raise the lake’s elevation by about one foot, Walsh said.

Cushman Contracting Corp., which operates the plant for COMB, needs 90 days notice to move the barge.

Despite the fact the lake level is low enough to require pumping, COMB is still required to conduct downstream releases of water for fish, a sore spot for local water agencies.

The fish release rules are less stringent when the lake reaches the 30,000-acre-foot level, said Michael Jackson, area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, who attended Monday’s meeting.

Pumps currently release 8 acre feet of water per day for fish passage.

The lake was at 17.1-percent storage capacity as of Monday, which is 33,138 acre-feet of water.

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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