Important Santa Maria Groundwater Meeting Wednesday

Wednesday, May 7, at 2 PM, there is an important Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin meeting at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room at the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria. If you plan to drink water in North County in the future please attend! This is the only public meeting each year to talk about our groundwater quantity and quality.  See details in the meeting notice below.  The meeting addresses the groundwater basin Annual Report, which describes declining levels of groundwater and numerous pollution problems facing our groundwater.

SBCAN will have a list of important questions that we want to ask the report author. If you are interested in helping us on this, please come early and meet us in the foyer of the meeting room; we’ll be there by 1:30 PM to discuss our concerns and questions. We think the report glosses over the some of the major problems facing our water supply. Commenters only have until 10 AM the next morning to submit written comments on the report.

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The report "2016 Annual Report of Hydrological Conditions, Water Requirements, Supplies and Disposition for the Santa Maria Valley Management Area" is online at the City of Santa Maria website: www.cityofsantamaria.org/city-government/departments/utilities-sewer-water-trash/twitchell-management-authority-documents. Although we think it lacks thorough analysis of many important issues, it is interesting and full of detailed maps.

If you have any questions or want to know more, call Jane Baxter at 805 349-9909, prior to the meeting.  Jane has spent much more time than I have on this, but feel free to call me as well at 805 563-0463. On Monday and Tuesday Jane will be asking more questions of agency personnel to provide some additional analysis of the report, adding more important questions.

We need a big turnout to let the powers that be know that we want better water reporting and a more transparent report on what the big problem issues really are.  We also need to ask for a process that allows more public notification of this meeting, more public participation in the meeting, and more resident participation in our water future than this current processes allows. 

More information on just a few of the issues of concern: 

1.  Declining groundwater levels: Groundwater levels have declined overall since 2002.  The report characterizes this as normal cycles of wet and dry periods and recommends no concrete immediate actions or planning for long-term solutions. There is no information given about the magnitude of groundwater level decline in the basin and no charts that show what the total number of feet of decline has been since 2001 to give the public an idea about the severity of this important problem.

2. No mention of climate change. The analysis of our water needs to address climate change as an important planning issue, which this reporting does not, in spite of our raising this issue at the last two annual meetings.  Rising sea levels adding to our already growing risk of salt-water intrusion from the ocean into our water supply and the good chance of less precipitation long term are important issues to address when it comes to our water supply.  Why is this not happening?

3.  Finally oil is listed as a groundwater contaminant:  For the first time the report addresses oil industry activities as a source of pollution, but the coverage of the issue remains inadequate. See page 13-16 of the report.  We need activists to stand up and demand more accurate and comprehensive analysis of the pollution problem from the existing hundreds of active and abandoned wells that penetrate the watershed (and our two refineries) and the hundreds of proposed wells coming our way that would also be drilled through the groundwater basin.

Time for a phone call? Last year, as always, there was not enough time to answer all the questions from the public, because only twenty or so minutes were allocated for that. Call Liese Schadt, the report author and meeting organizer for Luhdorff and Scalmanini, at (530) 661-0109, and ask her to allocate more meeting time to public questions and less time for the discussion of the report, which can be read by interested parties.

Here's the notice of the hearing:
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Santa Barbara County Action Network
Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.