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As Water Levels Drop, Lake Cachuma Operators Ready to Move Pumping Barge

Service to Goleta West Conduit will be interrupted during 48-hour barge shutdown; no impacts expected for other South Coast customers

The pumping barge in Lake Cachuma will be moved west to a deeper spot so it can continue supplying water to the South Coast.
The pumping barge in Lake Cachuma will be moved west to a deeper spot so it can continue supplying water to the South Coast.  (Joshua Haggmark / City of Santa Barbara photo)

Lake Cachuma’s emergency pumping barge is scheduled be moved to deeper water starting Wednesday, June 29, as California enters the summer months in its fifth year of drought.

Only agricultural customers will be affected for the 48 hours or so it takes the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board to move the barge, said David Matson, assistant general manager of the Goleta Water District.

Water supply is scheduled to be temporarily suspended to the 24 connections along the Goleta West Conduit pipeline, a separate system that relies entirely on water from the lake. 

Water supply during the shutdown will rely on COMB's reservoir storage, which capacity is limited to 20 million gallons. 

Matson urged customers to avoid non-essential water use, including outdoor irrigation, so there is sufficient water available for domestic use and emergency service providers.

Due to the temporary change of supply during the shutdown, all water customers may notice changes in the water’s appearance, including discoloration, Matson said.

“These changes are purely aesthetic and do not present a health risk,” Matson said. “If they occur, customers are encouraged to turn on the faucet to flush the line for five minutes to let the water clear.”

Cachuma water elevation currently sits at approximately 663 feet and if levels drop to 658 feet at the barge’s current location, it won’t properly supply to South Coast water agencies in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria, according to COMB.

"Moving the barge to this deeper but more distant part of the lake is critically important for the people of the South Coast,” said Lauren Hanson of the Goleta Water District. 

The reservoir is a major water supply for the South Coast and downstream Santa Ynez River customers. 

The relocation of the barge will require COMB to shutdown the Corona del Mar Water Treatment Plant in Goleta, therefore, there will be less water flowing to COMB’s distribution system during the outage. 

However, COMB does not anticipate service interruptions for customers in the urban areas because reservoirs will be filled at or near capacity and plans to have all available groundwater wells fully operational, Matson said. 

At a recent Santa Barbara City Council meeting, water resources manager Joshua Haggmark told City Council that officials will work to minimize shutdown impacts and ensure customers have adequate water during the 48-hour relocation.

Normal water deliveries are expected to be made throughout the barge shutdown, said Montecito Water District General Manager Nicholas Turner.

“All COMB customers will be supplied with normal water deliveries,” Turner said. “Nothing abnormal should be expected.”

He said if barge relocation takes slightly longer than anticipated, COMB's local reservoirs will help ensure normal water delivery.

COMB general manager Janet Gingras said the timing is suitable because the lake level is appropriate for Cushman Contracting Corporation to move the barge to the new location at the western end of the lake.

“We are hoping it will take less (time) than that,” Gingras said. “The contractor has been working diligently since the notice to proceed.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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