SANTA YNEZ, Calif. -- Nearly 300 state and local leaders gathered here to mark the completion of the water project which brings State water to both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. The project was a joint effort between the State Department of Water Resources and the Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA), a local agency formed to finance, construct, and operate State water treatment and delivery facilities on behalf of Santa Barbara County project participants.
In an hour-long ceremony under a hot Santa Ynez Valley sun, hundreds of local leaders, and state water project participants assembled at CCWA's Santa Ynez Pumping Facility to view the activation of the Coastal Branch Project which will deliver water to 23 project participants on the Central Coast.
The keynote speaker for the day was James M. Stubchaer. As chief engineer for the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District for 31 years, Stubchaer spoke of the research which led to the selection of the Coastal Branch as the preferred supplemental water supply alternative. He also gave his perspective on the importance this project holds for local purveyors who have subscribed for State water and for the future of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
The highlight of the event was the computerized activation of the facilities for 12 key entities that have contracted for State water. In a high-tech display, which was projected to the crowd via a large video wall, Mike Madigan, vice chairman of the California Water Commission, asked a representative from each of the 12 contracting agencies to, "activate" their portion of the Coastal Branch.
One by one, representatives from the County of San Luis Obispo; the City of Guadalupe; the City of Santa Maria; the Southern California Water Company; Vandenberg Air Force Base; the City of Buellton; the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1; the Goleta Water District; the La Cumbre Mutual Water Company; the City of Santa Barbara; the Montecito Water District; and the Carpinteria Valley Water District were called upon to step forward and "approve activation."
Each agency's approval of its connection to the Coastal Branch of the State Water Project was displayed on a large screen for the audience to see. After the final water agency approved its activation, water began to flow from an open section of pipe into the pumping facility forebay to the delight of the assembled crowd.
The State Water Project moves water more than 400 miles from its Sierra Nevada watershed, down the Feather and Sacramento Rivers, into the California Aqueduct, and finally, into the Coastal Branch which brings water from Kern County through Vandenberg AFB, and then to Lake Cachuma.
The newly-completed Coastal Branch can supply as much as 47,816 acre-feet per year to supplement supplies from area reservoirs and groundwater basins. A major reason for completing the Coastal Branch and providing a new source of water for the Central Coast is to reduce dependence on groundwater. Partially as a result of the devastating drought of 1987-92, groundwater aquifers were being overdrafted. With the new source of State water, the aquifers can be restored and groundwater banked for future use.
Experts call the project an environmental achievement as well. The pipeline crossed 18 environmentally sensitive communities along the route, including habitat for dozens of protected plant and animal species, ranging from the San Joaquin kit fox to the burrowing owl and red-legged frog. Before construction began, environmental specialists built miles of fence and captured endangered blunt-nose leopard lizards, transporting them to other suitable habitat. Habitat was also protect for kit foxes, red-legged frogs, and California tiger salamanders.
Revegetation of areas affected by construction is also a component of the project effort. Revegetation began before construction was completed and will continue for five years. Efforts include restoration and careful monitoring of special biological communities along the pipeline route, including riparian, oak woodlands, and chaparral habitats. More than 60,000 acorns were collected and planted as part of the revegetation work.
The project takes advantage of the latest technology. State-of-the-art equipment monitors seismic movement along the entire route. In case of a pipeline rupture, operations can be quickly stopped to make repairs and reduce water loss. Fiber optic cable runs along the entire length of the pipeline and is part of the project's automated monitoring and control system. This system allows technicians at the Polonio Pass Water Treatment Plant (SLO County) and in Sacramento to monitor and operate the facilities around the clock. In addition, technicians in the field are able to use portable, hand-held computers to monitor and modify operations.
Return to the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water News Homepage