Cannabis Is a Thirsty Crop

Water Use by Farm Proposed Along Scenic Highway 1 Will Be Harmful

Lima beans have historically been dry-farmed in the Jalama area, which conserves rainwater within the soil and uses no irrigation water. The proposed cannabis planting would use 7 million gallons of water. | Credit: Sally Isaacson

We want to inform the community of some distressing plans afoot along Scenic Highway 1,
close to the turnoff for the much-loved Jalama Beach.

Highway 1 from 101 at Las Cruces to State Route 246 in Lompoc is one of our county’s few
treasured State Scenic Highways. Along its length, the surrounding farmland and beautiful
viewsheds of this rural byway have, until now, been well-protected by long-term ranching
families.

In September 2021, Santa Barbara County Planning and Development approved a land use
permit for Big Bend Ranch for growing 9.19 acres of cannabis, a very thirsty crop, and the use of
up to 22 acre-feet of well water that would be drawn from shallow wells near a creek during the
growing season. This amount is equivalent to about 7 million gallons (or the amount of water
required to supply 65 average American households per year).

Perhaps you know that the flat, prime farmland of this area has been dry-farmed in lima beans
(butter beans) and some garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for as long as the locals can remember.
Cattle have grazed the steep hills above the flats. Historically, this land has not been irrigated.
Water is very limited here, for the wildlife and the residents and their livestock, and therefore the
neighbors of the property in question (3151 San Julian Road) are very concerned about this
proposed new land use. The fact that rainfall in Santa Barbara County has been below average
for eight of the past 10 years has made us all even more worried.

El Jaro Creek, which runs through this ranch, is designated as critical habitat for the southern
steelhead, a federally recognized endangered species. This creek also provides habitat for the
red-legged frog, another protected species, and other rare animals. El Jaro Creek is a major
tributary of Salsipuedes Creek, which is the largest tributary of the lower Santa Ynez River.
Much work has been done along both El Jaro and Salsipuedes creeks to enhance spawning
habitat for the southern steelhead. Any action that would reduce or eliminate pools in these
creeks would negatively affect the protected species.

Santa Barbara County gives only a 10-day period after approval of a land use permit, during
which neighbors may file an appeal. After we received the notice of approval, our group of 18
neighbors rapidly set to work and filed an appeal against the granting of this land use permit
(Case Number 19LUP-00000-00133).

The county has set the hearing for this appeal with the Planning Commission for March 2, 2022.

There are many reasons that this is not a good choice of location for growing cannabis; however,
our appeal focuses on the water issue. We strongly feel that withdrawal of the proposed large
volume of water will affect the summer pools in El Jaro Creek, upon which the protected wildlife
species depend. This water use is also likely to affect the capacities of at least seven nearby wells
that belong to several long-established local families.

In addition, this narrow stretch of Highway 1 is known to be very dangerous, with frequent
accidents and fatalities occurring along the curves that pass Big Bend Ranch. We are concerned
that the proposed project will only add to these issues on this very busy commuter highway,
which runs between the City of Lompoc and Highway 101.

If you have driven along Santa Rosa Road lately, you will have seen the effect of proliferation of
cannabis farming. Why open the door to this happening along one of our area’s best loved and
most beautiful byways?

We would very much appreciate any support for this appeal that concerned community members
and organizations might like to give. We would be most grateful for letters of support addressed
to:

County of Santa Barbara Planning and Development, c/o Kevin De Los Santos, 123 East
Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, or to http://santosk@co.santa-barbara.ca.us.

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