COMB Members Drop to Four

Kevin Walsh
Paul Wellman

Festering bad blood between downstream water agencies drawing from Lake Cachuma and four South Coast agencies above the dam boiled over last week as the dam hit historic low-water marks — 11.5 percent — and the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District ID1 officially renounced its membership in the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board (COMB).

Santa Ynez’s Improvement District Number 1 (ID1) representatives complained COMB was setting aside too much water for steelhead restoration efforts, more than they were required to by federal oversight agencies. They also complained the South Coast water agency members — Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Montecito — failed to live up to the contractual obligations to cut back water use when the dam dropped down to the 100,000 acre-feet mark in 2013. “There’s a lot of straws that broke the camel’s back, but it’s hard to identify the right straw,” said ID1 board president Kevin Walsh. “We just got to a place where enough was enough.”

For the four other agencies, ID1’s “Brexit” announcement came as relief. The financial contribution of the small downstream water agency was not sufficient, some said, to justify the political melodrama the friction has caused.

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