Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   May 30, 2019

Let’s Percolate

Several questions come into the Montecito Sanitary District (MSD) that need and deserve answers. So, let’s start.

Q. My plumber told me that the Sanitary District no longer offers financial aid for private sewer lateral replacement/repair (pipe between house and the main sewer line). Is that true?

A. The District does offer a Sewer Lateral Rebate program. The rebate has a maximum of $2,000 upon receipt of billing by a Licensed Plumber. For more information go to www.montsan.org.

Did I read correctly that MSD was named in litigation related to the Thomas Fire and debris flow?

No. MSD is not involved in any legal proceedings with respect to the Thomas Fire or debris flow.

Are Montecito Water and Montecito Sanitary Districts now combined?

No. Both entities are independent Special Districts.

What is the status of negotiations between MSD and the City of Santa Barbara regarding desalination?

MSD has no involvement in these negotiations, since its function is to collect, treat, and dispose of wastewater in our district.

Dana Newquist

(Editor’s note: If you have comments or questions for the Montecito Sanitary District, you can direct those to MSD Board of Directors Member Dana Newquist at montsan.org)

On Water Security

Bob Hazard’s “On The Water Front” column, titled “Water Security from the Santa Barbara Channel” (MJ # 25/19) contains certain statements that concern me, which I intend to address in this response.

Statement: “aging and unreliable State Water Project (SWP)”

The SWP supplies water to 27 million people throughout the State of California. A system of this size and importance will continue to be maintained just as our airports, freeways, and other critical infrastructure are constantly being maintained. In fact, the paper complains about the cost of SWP maintenance. Obviously the SWP will continue to be reliable and well maintained.

Statement: “Individual districts, seeking to reduce their dependency on SWP water, have embraced high cost desalination efforts in Santa Barbara ….”

There are no water districts seeking to embrace desalination in Santa Barbara County other than the City of Santa Barbara (City). Desalination is expensive and environmentally questionable because it is very energy intensive. The City knows this all too well. After constructing a desalination facility in response to a drought in the 1980s it sat idle for 26 years. The Montecito Water District (MWD) and the Goleta Water District (GWD) participated in the original construction cost but withdrew from the project in 1995, five years after it was completed. This proved to be an economically wise decision. Both MWD and GWD declined to participate in the recent renovation of the City’s desalination facility. However, MWD has recently expressed interest in a Water Supply Agreement with the City that would be supported by all of the City’s water supplies including the desalination facility.

Unlike MWD, which can meet 80% of its water supply needs provided by the SWP infrastructure, the City has a SWP entitlement that can meet only 33% of its needs. This gives the City no other choice but to renovate the idled desalination plant to supplement its water supply portfolio in preparation for the next drought.

Statement: “Eliminate our current dependency on the State Water System.”

You’ve got to be kidding! This is the very system that demonstrated its critical importance during the recent severe drought. It met over 80% of MWD customer water needs! Without it, only indoor water use, which is 15% of normal total customer demand, could have been met with other MWD supplies. There would have been no water available for exterior use.

The SWP water was supplied through its extensive delivery system (dams, canals, pump stations, pipelines, etc.). The system proved to be absolutely invaluable to water agencies in Santa Barbara County during the drought. The primary source of the water was Central Valley farmers who are always willing to sell water to the SWP for a certain profit rather than risk growing crops. The SWP drought water cost approximately $600 per acre-foot and it is only purchased in those years that it is needed. During non-drought years, MWD will use surface water supplied by Cachuma and Jameson Lakes to meet all of its customer needs and defer ordering the more expensive SWP water.

Please note that the proposed Water Supply Agreement (WSA)with the City costs approximately $2,980 per acre-foot and meets only 35% of MWD customer needs. Also unlike SWP water, MWD is required to take and pay for WSA water every year even during the majority of years when it is not needed, i.e. normal and wet years. The WSA would cost MWD customers $4.3 million per year or $925 for the average customer.

Statement: “In a gesture of nobility, coastal cities could cede or sell all their State Water (and its associated costs) to inland cities and inland agriculture who need it more.”

No and no. Participation in the SWP is not voluntary; it is a contractual obligation that cannot be ceded or given away. The City of Solvang attempted to break its SWP contract in the 1990s and after spending millions of dollars in attorney fees the court ruled against it.

Regarding selling SWP water: that doesn’t work for two reasons. The SWP water supply facilities were never completed primarily due to environmental concerns. As a result the declared water deliveries from the SWP vary significantly from year to year depending upon rainfall and snowfall. This would be like trying to sell a commodity that has an unknown quantity. Also the agency that would purchase the water would need to be part of the SWP in order to get the water delivered i.e. no sale.

The second reason is that the real value of the SWP is in its water delivery system. Only an agency that lies along the South Coast of Santa Barbara could possibly get value from the MWD SWP infrastructure. However along with that value comes an obligation to pay for the SWP maintenance, which the Paper noted, was substantial i.e. no sale. As a side note the Carpinteria Valley Water District tried to sell its interest in the SWP in the past but was unsuccessful. However they undoubtedly found the SWP delivery system invaluable during the recent drought as did the other SWP agencies.

I appreciate the Paper’s author for thinking outside-the box. However after serving 25 years as the City’s Water Resources Manager and the MWD General Manager, I have come to appreciate that proposed solutions to water supply issues can be surprisingly complex. Also MWD is fortunate and farsighted to have obtained 3300 acre-feet of SWP entitlement. By using the SWP drought water purchase program, MWD economically met 80% of its customers water needs during the drought. The remaining 20% was supplied from MWD’s other water sources.

My hope is that MWD will contract with a water supply expert to update its Water Supply Plan. The update would evaluate conjunctively using MWD water supplies along with water conservation to ensure that when a future drought arrives all of MWD’s customers needs will be met.

Bob Roebuck

In the Right Hands

There is a lot of talk these days about how the wealthy don’t pay their fair share. People are looking, at times greedily, at the amount of wealth individuals have managed to put together and it seems they’d like to tax the heck out of it and take it for themselves.

If I may speak for the tradespersons and builders out there who work in our little piece of paradise; we like to earn it. We strive to give exceptional quality at a fair price. We pay our people well because they are the best of the best at delivering that quality that you pay for.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who builds, remodels, landscapes, and hires us all.

It’s counter intuitive to wealth grabbers who deride “trickle down,” but you have given families better lives, you’ve made their children more secure by building your dreams. Dreams that pay others to practice their craft at the highest level are not frivolous and the money spent is not wasted. You’ve improved lives and given people the pride of a good paycheck for a job well done.

Steve Gowler

The President’s Successes

I voted for Donald Trump. I have intelligent and caring liberal friends who voted for Hillary Clinton. I respect their choice. My sincere belief is that Barack Obama was a feckless president of our great country. I never voted for him. I genuinely believed that his far-left liberal views would be harmful to the nation’s welfare. Obama was presented with the opportunity to promote the advantages of the diversity that exists in our society and nowhere else in this world. In my opinion, he failed miserably. 

Trump and Clinton both carried heavy negatives and character flaws. I believe Clinton doomed herself by promising to promote the successes (???) of President Obama. And, putting the nation’s security at risk with her emails represents either a display of total stupidity or an “I could care less” attitude. 

Clinton won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College where presidential election results are determined. Consider this: In the Electoral College, needing 270 to win, Clinton basically started with 84 – 0 advantage … very liberal California (55) and New York (29)… and couldn’t succeed. She failed to carry rust belt states and other swing states where working class voters said “enough,” and expressed dissatisfaction with both Democrat and Republican politicians. I was impressed and encouraged with the responses from middle-class hard-working Americans. And, it is long past the time when we should bid the Clintons adieu.

Trump defeated two powerful political establishments and a heavily biased liberal media. I acknowledge that Trump is often his own worst enemy and would be better off using less bombastic rhetoric, but he is attempting to follow through on campaign promises. The economy is booming.

My overall wish is that members of the executive and legislative branches would “grow up” and work together to benefit the country.

Sanderson M. Smith, Ed.D.

Whiners and Losers

The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. Wow and hardly. The three major breaking news outlets forgot this decision. CNN is an arm of the Democratic Party. MSNBC is an arm of the Socialist Party. Fox is an arm of the Republican Party.

What galvanized my theory was a comment made by our sitting president. No matter how you feel about the president (personally I think he has made some good strategic moves but I am getting fed up with his half truths, quarter truths, and outright lies), the comment he made about Fox News was telling. He said the network was moving to the losing side by covering Democrats.


A major network covering both sides is now a loser.

To be fair, the bias exhibited on CNN and MSNBC is often not palpable either. In summary, CBS Evening News has a West Coast edition on at 5:30. Although there is some bias it is almost straight down the middle. Oh, and as long we have freedom of the press we also have freedom of the remote control.

Steve Marko

(Editor’s note: Well, this is more complicated than it first appears. Fox, by putting “Democrats” on various talk shows merely muddies the waters rather than adding any clarity to the mix. Most talking heads, whether on the right or on the left, have a set of opinions that are most often diametrically opposite, so their conflicting views simply clash and add nothing to the conversation. The intellect of someone such as the late Charles Krauthammer, whose opinions were not only his own, but were also always well thought out and articulated, is and was a rare occurrence on cable television. Without such minds, most of us prefer to listen to one side rather than the babble of two opposing voices. – J.B.)

Impeach! Now! (Or Whenever)

Starting the impeachment process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals, and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.

The electorate passes judgment on its presidents and their shortcomings every four years. But the framers were concerned that a president could abuse his authority in ways that would undermine the democratic process and that could not wait to be addressed. So they created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare – in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment.

Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger this fail-safe. But the United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to constitutional order.

That is precisely backwards. It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed. Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses. And, crucially, many of its benefits – to the political health of the country, to the stability of the constitutional system – accrue irrespective of its ultimate result. Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence whether to continue on to trial.

The House of Representatives can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out into Congress, where it belongs. Congress must decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself.

Today, the United States confronts a president who cares for only some of the people he represents, who promises his supporters that he can roll back the tide of diversity, who challenges the rule law, and who regards constitutional rights and liberties as disposable. The gravest danger facing the country is not a Congress that seeks to measure the president against his oath, it is a president who fails to measure up to that solemn promise.

Leoncio Martins
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Yawn, yah, sure. Whatever. – J.B.)

A Serious Situation

Between 3:30 and 6 pm no service can be delivered by the Fire Department, an ambulance, or the police to Montecito, as the traffic is so jammed up, and there are rocks all over the roads’ shoulders, put there by homeowners who have extended their gardens to the blacktop asphalt.

What do you think? Is this serious or not?

Gene Tyburn

(Editor’s note: Well, yes, it is serious, but we’ve been whining about this for the last decade to no avail. It will be another decade before this is resolved. So, in the meantime, slow down and enjoy the jam; at least pedestrians aren’t being knocked over by speeders. – J.B.)


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