Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   April 11, 2019

In Search of Dragons

I’ve just finished reading your touching (and accurate) tribute to our remarkable friend, Julian Nott (“He Landed Safely,” MJ # 25/13).

In addition to being a “…physicists, thinker, inventor, and bon vivant…” Julian had a devious, some might say “twisted” sense of humor, which inspired me to write more than a few letters to the editor.

Sometime in 2009, Julian discovered that I had founded an organization, which satirized and mocked “bureaucratic safety rules and regulations.” With his typical enthusiasm, he began to provide me fodder and feedback for arguments favoring the risk-taker. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Julian held many, many, aviation and scientific records which could only have been accomplished by a world-class risk taker.

One afternoon, we were discussing authors and “essays” which, over the course of our lives, had provided unusual levels of inspiration. I mentioned an article I once read in a weekly news magazine (back when they were still worth reading) that had praised the “adventurous spirit” and those who weren’t afraid to venture near the edge of safe havens and safe knowledge. I told Julian that the one-page essay had the word “dragon” in the title.

To my amazement, he said the article that inspired me was called “Here Be Dragons,” written by James Lipton and that it was published in the November or December 1976 issue of Time. At first I thought Julian was pulling my leg, but later discovered that Lipton’s essay was indeed on page 17 of the December 6, 1976 issue.

The third paragraph of that commentary reads as follows:

Centuries ago, when a cartographer ran out of Known World before he ran out of parchment, he inscribed the words, “Here be Dragons” on the edge of the ominously blank terra incognita, a signal to the voyager that he entered the unknown region at his peril. But for some, like Columbus and Magellan, the warning seems not to have been a deterrent, but a goad.

Julian said that warnings and restrictions inspired him, even more, to color outside the lines, and that the only “regrets” he’d ever have would be those (rare) times when he couldn’t locate any dragons. 

What a fabulous, “skidding-in-broadside,” ride you had my friend.

Dale Lowdermilk
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Nice letter from you too, my friend. Julian was a courageous and brilliant man well worth knowing, as all of us who’d spent any time with him can attest. – J.B.)

Thinking of Hanging It Up

I’ve been a business owner going on 18 years on Coast Village Road and would like to say a few things. It has been the worst year I have ever had and I’m not the only one. If you look around, you will notice many businesses closed. It’s very sad. I truly believe it is because of the closing of the southbound onramp to the 101.

The traffic is horrendous and the parking is too. There is no parking anywhere; every spot is taken but there is nobody around. We can’t figure out where all the people are. Please don’t park on Coast Village Road unless you are shopping. My customers won’t drive here. If they do, they can’t find parking or because of the traffic; we are all suffering.

What can we do? I’m ready to hang it up.

Jeff Rypysc, owner
Montecito Deli & Catering

(Editor’s note: We wish we could offer more encouragement other than you should probably consider updating your home and business delivery service. Regardless, we hope you’ll stay here because you offer good food and reasonable prices and virtually no one does that around here any longer. – J.B.)

Missing MA

Welcome back to Montecito Journal, the special section (“Association Agenda,” MJ # 25/13) about and from the Montecito Association Director and President. Hope this will continue (again) as many years ago there was a special article, usually weekly, from the MA about happenings of interest in and around Montecito. 

Jean von Wittenburg

(Editor’s note: So do we! – J.B.)

Look Before Leaping

I am writing to comment on the guest editorial by Bob Hazard (“The Water Wells of Montecito,” MJ # 25/12). Groundwater is certainly a valuable water supply for the Montecito Water District (MWD), which they estimate can supply 70 acre feet per month of water to its customers via MWD groundwater wells. This amount actually exceeds all of the water used indoors by customers, which is metered at an average 47 acre feet per month at the Montecito Sanitary District Wastewater Treatment Plant. This means that even in the worse conceivable water shortage, the groundwater supply can meet the critical indoor water needs of its customers.

It also means approximately 15% of MWD water is used indoors (4.4 hundred cubic feet (HCF) per month for the average customer) and the remaining 85% is for outdoor use, primarily landscaping.

As stated by Mr. Hazard, as the drought evolved, MWD instituted a water rationing program that provided a financial incentive for large water users to drill wells. For single family residential (SFR) the lowest monthly rate was charged for usage up to 25 HCF. Any usage above 25 HCF was charged at a significantly higher rate. This rate structure provided minimal incentive to conserve water for SFR parcels of less than several acres, which comprises the largest number of customers in the MWD. It also provided significant financial incentive for owners of large SFR parcels to drill wells in order to avoid punitive water rates. A distasteful alternative for those customers would be to let some of their landscaping die.

In retrospect, a water rate structure similar to that of Goleta, Carpinteria, or Santa Barbara, which have more rate tiers, may have been more effective. Those structures engage all customers in water conservation and are less punitive.

The MWD Board has approved a contract with “Dudek,” which will attempt to identify private wells and extraction quantities. This information is critical in developing an underground water bank recharged with MWD water supplies during wet or normal rainfall periods. Also the information will be important in allocating water rights between private well owners and the MWD, which has its own wells. Until this information is available and MWD’s groundwater rights have been defined it would be foolish for MWD to embark upon a groundwater injection program only to have that water extracted by private well owners with no compensation to MWD.

Mr. Hazard suggests recharging the groundwater basin with water provided by an agreement with the City (backed by desalinated water), which costs ten times more than other MWD water sources. This would be a terrible waste of MWD customer funds.

Which brings us to the question of how will MWD customers pay for the extremely expensive potential water supply agreement with the City and what do you do with that water when other MWD supplies are plentiful and much less expensive?

Mr. Hazard’s suggested solution is to charge all property owners for the agreement costs and other water related infrastructure costs. However MWD customers already pay for infrastructure costs every month on their water bills as a “fixed charge” based on meter size. Costs for water treatment, operations, maintenance, etc. are paid by the “water rate” charge, which is based on the amount of water used monthly. This is an equitable system used by water agencies throughout California. The reason why the Montecito Sanitary District charges each parcel for its services through the tax role is because they have no way of measuring the monthly sewage being discharged by each customer. SFR sewage flow is the result of indoor water use that does not differ significantly based on parcel size. As a result it is equitable to have a sewer charge per parcel included on the County tax roles for those parcels that have sewer service.

The same philosophy does not apply to water service. Placing water infrastructure costs on the tax role does not lessen the cost and they are not tax deductible.

Before brainstorming ways to acquire and pay for additional water supplies, please update MWD’s existing water supply plan, which I recall was completed in 2007. Significant new information has been developed based on the recent severe drought and MWD’s ability to use its supplies to meet demand. The plan update could also explore the reliability of existing water supply sources and examine possible alternatives such as: conjunctive use of MWD’s existing water supply portfolio, MWD groundwater injection and banking, recycled wastewater, financially assisting customers to use water conserving landscaping and devices, firming up State Water Project deliveries through agreements with Central Valley farmers, City water supply agreement (backed by desalination), and increasing participation in the Semi Tropic Groundwater Banking Program.

Cachuma Lake is at 80% capacity and may spill next year. This gives the MWD Board additional time to examine the significant financial and water supply impacts of a 50-year water supply agreement with the City that costs $250 million dollars over the agreement life. This is a huge decision. Before the Board makes this decision that dramatically affects all MWD customers I would think that they would want an updated water supply analysis by an expert and a financial analysis on its impact to every customer.

Please update MWD’s water supply plan to include the latest information and examines water supply needs and alternatives.

Bob Roebuck


You might also be interested in...