Protecting Steelhead and Water Supplies

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) built the Bradbury Dam and associated facilities along the Santa Ynez River in the 1950s creating what we know now as Lake Cachuma. Today, the Federal Project provides approximately 85% of the water supplies for more than 250,000 residents and 12,000 acres of agriculture along the South Coast of Santa Barbara County. Since 1993 the five Cachuma Member Agencies, including the Goleta Water District, have assisted the federal government and other Santa Ynez River stakeholders to develop fish management programs that protect both the endangered Southern California Steelhead as well as the region’s water supplies. This collaboration includes the development and ongoing implementation of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 2000 Biological Opinion, which has enhanced Steelhead populations and habitat in the River.

USBR is currently engaged with NMFS in a Biological Opinion Reconsultation on the Project. As this process moves forward, there are growing concerns that the updated Federal Biological Opinion may require substantial additional water releases for fish protection from Lake Cachuma. These federal requirements could result in a loss of water supplies for the region and could potentially increase water costs for our customers. In our ongoing efforts to protect our water supplies and keep costs low for customers, we are encouraging USBR to build on the success of the 2000 Biological Opinion, utilizing an ongoing collaborative approach that safeguards both fish and water supplies.

Steelhead trout swimming in clear water

(Published July 28, 2014)