The Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board (COMB) took the first step toward approving the construction of a $6 million “straw,” a new four-mile-long pipe that might be needed to transport water delivered via the State Water Project from the northern end of Lake Cachuma to the intake tunnel and customers. It’s yet another exceptionally expensive form of insurance area water agencies are seeking should the drought persist.
Lake Cachuma is already down to what’s known as the “dead pool,” the absolute minimum required by the federal government — which owns the dam — to justify calling it a lake. That minimum also allows state water deliveries — the only supply keeping South Coast faucets flowing — to make it from where it’s currently dumped to a $5 million emergency barge installed so that what little water remains in the “lake” can be pumped up and into the intake portal.
Although Lake Cachuma is still down to about 7 percent capacity, the water level is creeping slowly up due to shorter and cooler days and a smattering of rain. The new pipe would bypass the pumping barge. And by taking state water directly to the intake portal, it would eliminate losses due to evaporation. Technically, the COMB board voted to spend $108,000 on engineering studies preliminary to building the new pipe, which would cost about $6 million to install.