Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   June 25, 2020

Not Missing After All

Nicholas Schou’s article in the 18-25 June 2020 edition of the Journal is a deeply flawed and misdirected screed against private wells disguised as an “investigation” of “Montecito’s Missing Water.” An alliterative headline to be sure, but missing? It may be unknown, but it hasn’t gone missing. At the outset, when he discussed the groundwater basin, he defined the term “highly permeable” as “leaky and almost useless.” Permeability in fluid mechanics and the Earth sciences is a measure of the ability of a porous material to allow fluids to pass through it. Water movement in aquifers is highly dependent on the permeability of the aquifer material. The greater the permeability, the better the flow of water an aquifer can provide. A basin is the sum of its aquifers. Far from being a useless property, it is an essential property of an aquifer. He continues by writing that the basin has been subject to “decades of degradation by property owners drilling private wells.” Does nature have any bearing on the recharge of wells? Do the management practices of MWD have any bearing on local well drilling decisions and usage? Does population density affect this in any way?

Of the ten hydrologic regions in California, the Central Coast stands out the one that uses more ground water as a percentage of total water use (86%) than any other. The next highest groundwater use is in the South Lahontan region that uses 66%; and this declines to a low of 30% in the Sacramento River region. Stated otherwise, without groundwater, the Central Coast would not be able to support habitation. This is why there are over 11,000 wells between Montecito and Goleta. It is also why the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is directed toward governmental entities and not private citizens. Intelligent well owners, as individuals, will manage their wells within the limitations of the aquifer feeding those wells. It is what is in their best interest and therefore in the best interest all of all well owners who share that aquifer.

Mr. Schou continues by making the ignorant claim that any Montecito resident who drills a well “is therefore paying either nothing for municipal water or as little as possible to meet their needs.” All but a few well owners in Montecito pay for municipal water for their household needs (because of its excellent quality) and for the difference between what their wells produce and what they need for outdoor use. Well flow varies with the quantity of water in the aquifer, a quantity that lags between six and eighteen months from the rainfall that produces it. Wells are known to go dry. For those people who have decided to reduce their costs by drilling a well, something that is patently offensive to Mr. Schou, but is a practice he surely engages in when purchasing goods and services, Mr. Schou conveniently neglects the cost of drilling, operating and maintaining those wells. Going back to the data on hydrologic regions, he somehow does not understand that these wells provide water that serves to reduce the water supply burden on the MWD. With no private wells scattered across Montecito accessing different aquifers at different depths, where would MWD obtain the water to substitute for those wells? And how high would the price of that water be? The unalterable fact is that private wells, well managed, benefit MWD and its customer base. Poorly managed, the private well owner will add to the demand on MWD and push up the price of its sole product.

The MWD is a utility that sets its own rates for a product that is necessary to life. The upheaval in board members didn’t happen because the District was being run to the satisfaction of Montecito residents. Of course, the problem has always been supply and the cost of that supply. Today we are being asked to accept a rate card from MWD that shrinks the available quantity of the lowest cost tier of water and substantially increases the cost of the next tier(s) of water. This is driven by the expensive nature of desal water from a 20+ year old plant that will cost $75 million to reactivate. In the teeth of the last drought in 2015 there was another alternative. The Central Coast Water Authority was exploring a pipeline (the “bypass project”) that would connect the State Water Project pipeline with the water intake tower at Lake Cachuma. This would have also allowed carryover water from other areas to be piped to Santa Barbara. The anticipated cost back then to complete the bypass project was $2 million. Tom Mosby was against this approach because, as he stated at the time, “If the entire state’s going dry, there won’t be any state water to deliver next year.” Yet, in 2016 the entire state didn’t go dry and it hasn’t since. And that rationale was the basis behind the desal water idea. Back then, Montecito was planning its own desal plant and that didn’t happen either. To compensate, Mr. Mosby doubled MWD’s groundwater pumping to 600 acre feet a year in an aquifer Mr. Schou ascribes to Mr. Mosby as saying is “paltry.” That increase in pumping groundwater in a paltry basin equates to providing a year’s worth of water to over 1,700 average suburban homes every year. Since the number of homes didn’t increase by that much it is a sure bet that homeowners in Montecito increased their water usage by that amount. Yet, for Mr. Schou, this wasn’t degradation of the aquifer. Maybe this was because he remembered Mosby’s words, “if you have two solid years of rainfall, the basin [and its aquifers] fills up and then you can pump water from your well.” Decades of degradation? Hardly.

John Perry

Best Editor’s Letter Yet!

Unlike one of your other readers, I do NOT miss all those long letters from the same people every week, nor Jim Buckley’s often snide responses.

Deirdre Hanssen

King Newsom?

On Thursday, California Gov. Newsom mandated that face masks be required for all of California via the California Department of Public Health. Although there is public support, there is a lot of resistance to the mandate. People resent being told what to do and many are skeptical about the science because of conflicting messages by health officials and doctors. What about people getting sick from wearing masks over long periods of time? There are other questions. Was Newsom’s mandate political? Was it done to inflict fear, maintain control or react to conservative Orange County that recently gave the public the choice to wear face masks? Furthermore, who will enforce the order and do we really want to criminalize Americans over face masks? The Tulare Police Department says it will opt for education and encouragement of the order, rather than outright enforcement. Instead they will focus on crimes and criminals. Other police departments agree, especially with attacks on police and a lack of resources. Californians, does this mandate make sense? Does one size fit all? (Rural / cities) Why are we allowing Newsom to control our lives so much? It is time to stand up for our rights.

Diana Thorn

Don’t Print Anonymous Ads

If the MJ does not accept anonymous “letters to the editor” then I think submitted ads should also reveal who authored and paid for them. One rather annoying ad, which attempted to make people feel guilty about eating rack of lamb, appeared in the last MJ issue. The ad showed no taste and was offensive to farmers, ranchers and those who enjoy eating meat. It was a low attempt to push their own personal eating agenda and choice onto others in a shameful manner. The “eating-babies-themed” ad was probably inspired by PETA and paid for by an affluent local vegetarian/vegan. The cycle of life involves death and eating things, be it vegetables, insects, fish or animals. No one relishes the death aspect of our food chain and no one wants to see animals suffer and when it comes to processing livestock in the meat industry. It is much more humane than a wolf tearing a lamb to shreds or a shark massacring a tuna. I refuse to be shamed into changing my choice of meals by an ad posted by someone who would not sign their name and I hope the MJ will require “named” ads in the future.

Sue Burk
Santa Barbara

Library Plaza Praise

Kudos and sincere thanks to our City Council who recently voted unanimously to restore the Measure C funding for The Library Plaza. Their favorable vote will be a major factor in completing this project which is crucial to the revitalization of our unique downtown.

Now is an important time for our town and support from the City and generous citizen donors is essential in realizing the many and varied benefits of this wonderful project. The Library Foundation is leading the charge and envisions the reimagined Library Plaza as a community center where all are welcome for literacy, learning and adventure. This project has been a dream for many years and, with renewed public-private partnership, and the support of the community it will be an enormous asset to the rebirth of Santa Barbara’s downtown.

Arthur Merovick
Retired Headmaster Laguna Blanca School

Meaningful Reform

Dear City Council, what would meaningful reform look like?

I have a litmus test: “Is it good for children?” If the answer is “yes,” then it’s a good policy. If the answer is “no,” then scrap it.

Housing, homelessness, and elementary schools are the biggest problems facing children in Santa Barbara. Our City Council is failing the community with regard to all three.

The homeless. Protect the mentally ill and veterans. It is completely hypocritical to pretend that allowing a mentally ill person to sleep on the sidewalk is some sort of compassionate solution. Stop deceiving yourselves. It is completely inhumane for the mentally ill homeless person. And it is also completely unacceptable for the public (read children) to whom the streets and parks and sidewalks belong and which the City has a duty to maintain for the use of children.

It’s a disgrace and it’s completely unacceptable. Find housing for every mentally ill homeless person in Santa Barbara.

Veterans. These people put their lives on the line for your freedom. Are you kidding me? Veterans are sleeping on the streets and in the parks? Find housing for every homeless veteran in Santa Barbara.

Cops. Do we have bad cops in Santa Barbara? Fire them. That would require meaningful reform to the police union. The role of a police department with integrity is one of the most important roles in a civilized society. Our City Council must push back against the police union’s ability to protect bad cops from censure and punishment.

Police Station. Don’t build a police station at Cota Street. Give that land back to the school district for the use of children. In 1870, Lincoln School was built. It served the children of Santa Barbara for over a hundred years. It must be rebuilt: on that Cota Street site, its historic site, to once again serve families in the downtown neighborhood. That’s something that would actually be meaningful reform.

Budget collapse from a global pandemic compounded by civic unrest calling for meaningful reform of society. Who would have thought that those might just be the unlikely catalysts to actually shake up the status quo and do something bold and beautiful. Citizens for Neighborhood Schools has been advocating for the rebuilding of Lincoln School for over 20 years.

Alice P. Post
Past President, Citizens for Neighborhood Schools

Corrections & Omissions

In last week’s piece on the Montecito Planning Commission’s approval of the San Ysidro Roundabout, we inadvertently omitted that the project was approved with the addition of several new conditions, which may ultimately affect some aspects of the design of the project.

These new conditions may affect the original plan to “mound” the roundabout, the type of trees and landscaping that may be used, and other design elements. One of the conditions imposed sets forth that the highest area of the roundabout, including plantings, shall not reduce the present view corridors looking north towards the mountains and south to the ocean. Specific details on the design will be discussed and determined by the Montecito Board of Architectural Review. A list of conditions on the project can be found at www.countyofsb.org.

Earlier this week, the project’s approval was appealed by an individual living in Buellton. The project will now go before the Board of Supervisors on appeal before going back to MBAR for design.


You might also be interested in...