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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Santa Ynez River Steelhead Need Your Help!

Support Protection and Restoration of Steelhead in the Santa Ynez River

WHAT: Submit comments on State Water Resources Control Board’s Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report evaluating modifications to water rights permits to protect public trust resources in the Santa Ynez River available at:

WHEN: September 28, 2007

WHERE: Send comments to

Ms. Diane Riddle

Division of Water Rights

State Water Resources Control Board

P.O. Box 2000

Sacramento, CA 95812

fax: 916-341-5297

The State Water Resources Control Board is currently reviewing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s water rights permits for operation of Bradbury Dam on the Santa Ynez River to determine whether any modifications are necessary to protect public trust resources, including steelhead, in the Santa Ynez River. EDC is representing CalTrout in these proceedings.

These proceedings represent a significant and historic milestone. For the first time since construction of Bradbury Dam was authorized by Congress, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s water rights permits may be modified to restore and protect the public’s trust in the resources of the Santa Ynez River. For half a century, Bradbury Dam has been operated to maximize municipal and agricultural uses of Santa Ynez River water. This has exacted a heavy toll on the watershed and the wildlife dependent upon it. Once home to one of the largest runs of steelhead in Southern California, today’s steelhead population in the Santa Ynez River is now a mere remnant, numbering at less than 100 adults. Bradbury Dam blocks migration of this magnificent fish to its spawning grounds in the headwaters of the Santa Ynez and its tributaries. Studies show that about 80% of all quality spawning habitat for this species in the river lies above Bradbury Dam. Consequently, steelhead simply cannot find their way home and thus cannot reproduce in sufficient numbers to sustain their population. In addition, the very small numbers of steelhead that manage to persist below the dam are provided only meager amounts of water.

Please submit a comment to the State Water Resources Control Board and let this Agency know that:

  • The RDEIR does not include a range of alternatives that fulfill the project’s objectives including protecting steelhead as a public trust resource in the Santa Ynez River, as required by state laws.
  • Of the five alternatives identified in the RDEIR Alternatives 5B and 5C would provide the most benefits for steelhead, but the RDEIR should also evaluate additional measures that can restore and protect steelhead as a viable, public resource, including additional flow regimes for the lower river and steelhead passage around Bradbury Dam.
  • Currently, downstream water rights releases are made from Cachuma to replenish dewatered aquifers in the Santa Ynez and Lompoc areas. These short-term, high volume releases are made during mid- to late-summer after the river has dried out, and thus do little to benefit steelhead. The RDEIR should analyze alternative (more continuous) downstream water rights release patterns so that water released for groundwater recharge can concurrently improve conditions for steelhead.
  • Of all the alternatives, the RDEIR only identifies 5B as potentially resulting in a water-supply related impact caused by the need to tap alternative water supplies during the critical 3-year drought about once every 100 years. However, the State’s leading authority on water conservation, Pacific Institute has concluded that water conservation in the urban areas served by Cachuma could offset a water supply shortfall.

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