Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 10:01 am | Fair 53º


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Santa Ynez Water District Plans to Leave Cachuma Operation & Maintenance Board

The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1 plans to leave the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board after alleging the agency has “several significant issues with respect to COMB’s disregard for the rule of law.”

Kevin Walsh, the district's COMB representative, announced the decision to leave in a May 27 letter.

The district supplies 10,850 acre-feet of water to the Santa Ynez Valley from Lake Cachuma through downstream water releases, and is one of five members on the board along with representatives of the Carpinteria Valley Water District, the city of Santa Barbara, the Goleta Water District and the Montecito Water District.

COMB is responsible for the operation of the South Coast Conduit pipeline, which supplies water through the Tecolote Tunnel, and the balancing reservoirs, all on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County.

The letter from Walsh includes allegations regarding the 2000 biological opinion for steelhead trout water releases, along with discrepancies in financial accounting and inequities in water rights.

In addition, ID No.1 further alleges COMB board members management made “unprovoked personal assaults on district’s representatives,” members violating the Brown Act by not allowing ID No.1 representatives to attend public meetings, not allowing full discussion of controversial matters before the board, and COMB undertaking projects that created threats to the downstream water rights of the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District.

“ID No.1 had been a cooperative participating party in COMB for many decades, and with the substantive issues that have occurred over the past several years and the divergent direction of COMB, the ID No.1 Board determined to and approved withdrawal,” ID No. 1 General Manager Chris Dahlstrom said. 

The district serves the Santa Ynez, Ballard, Los Olivos, Solvang communities, and the unincorporated areas in between. It is responsible for producing and distributing the water supply from its four sources to its domestic and agricultural customers.

District water supplies is sourced by the Santa Ynez Uplands Groundwater Basin, Santa Ynez River Alluvium, State Water Project and The United States of America Bureau of Reclamation – Cachuma Project.

Dahlstrom said the withdrawal does not impact ID No.1 customers since COMB does not deliver water to ID No.1. The district plans to coordinate with COMB and the South Coast Cachuma Project Member Units as COMB participating parties, on certain elements of mutual interest, he said.

“I’m disappointed that they are going out of COMB,” said Harwood ‘Bendy’ White, the Santa Barbara COMB representative. “I undertook efforts to come to understanding about the issues that arose when I showed up. Collaboration is going to result in better outcomes compared to conflict.”

Dahlstrom said the downstream water release that provides residents adequate supply into the winter season does not involve COMB.

Santa Ynez ID No.1 will continue to coordinate with Santa Barbara County through the Cachuma Project Member Unit Contract and Bureau of Reclamation under a contract agreement, he said. 

Janet Gingras, general manager for COMB, confirmed ID No. 1 has given notice to withdraw from COMB in a letter.

Gingras said the board is not certain about the impacts at this point in time.

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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