I want to clarify some issues arising from the “Dead Pool” article in the August 1, 2016, Independent. To be clear, the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District stated at the outset of the 2016 water rights release that it planned to release all of the water available under the State Board Orders that protect our constituents’ downstream water rights. The amount of water to be released was not known (by anyone) until well into the release because it depended upon a complex process of operational conditions. We planned to release all that we legally could, given the drought-stricken plight of Santa Ynez/Lompoc Valley residents, with the single constraint of not impacting the South Coast’s pump barge operation.
It is not clear how South Coast water managers were ever “led to believe” the release would be only 8,000-9,000 acre-feet, but it was certainly not because of any such statements from the district.
The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District is and always has been open to question from the South Coast water managers as to the Board Orders we abide by in planning our releases. None of these managers asked about the dead pool or about our option with “negative credits” (a water loan). We did not “fool” the South Coast water agencies, but it would have been extremely difficult for us to voluntarily disclose our full legal water allowance, given the degree of distrust that has devolved over time between the downstream interests and the South Coast, especially with the City of Santa Barbara. As exemplified in the “dead pool” article, the inflammatory statements, spurious opinions, and slanderous accusations from its representative have reached unprecedented proportions.
This district has always attempted to work cooperatively with South Coast interests and their diversion of upstream water from the Santa Ynez Valley. In earlier times, we all benefited from professional cooperation. The district will continue to work cooperatively with the South Coast whenever it finds a climate of mutual understanding, trust, and respect. Right now, that is not easy to find.
Bruce Wales is general manager of Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District.