By Lea Boyd A drought-fueled fervor for protecting local groundwater supplies has led to Santa Barbara County investigations into four potentially illegal water trucking operations. The county is keeping confidential the locations of the four properties whose owners are accused of selling groundwater to Montecitans with thirsty landscaping, but Glenn Russell, director of Santa Barbara County Planning and Development, reported that at least one of the alleged sellers is in Carpinteria Valley Water District.
Russell expects that all four investigations will conclude before any violations or fines are issued. “I would characterize them more as educational exercises rather than enforcement exercises,” he said.
Selling groundwater from county property zoned for agriculture in the coastal zone is illegal, Russell said. On properties not zoned for agriculture, the activity requires a conditional use permit, the application for which would prompt an environmental review.
In the instances reported, a letter was sent to the property owners and a follow up phone call made. “In all these cases, we don’t expect these people to thumb their nose at the county,” Russell said. “These enforcement phases are probably going to end simply after the contact phase.”
Should unpermitted operations continue, a notice of violation will be sent, after which the property owner would have 30 days to cease operations or apply for a permit before a fine could be issued.
Russell said that water trucking zoning code violations can be more difficult to investigate than typical violations, like an illegal home addition. Trucking can take place surreptitiously, reports can be inaccurate and often there is little evidence of the activity.
Water District General Manager Charles Hamilton said that, by his rough estimates, water trucking operations have likely pulled between .5 and 2 acre feet of water from local aquifers. “Over the long haul it would be a threat to the basin…,” Hamilton said. “It now is more on the nuisance level.”
Locals who have admitted to selling their water have justified it for various reasons. At least one local farmer fallowed his fields and sold the water he would have used for his own crops. Some have allegedly trucked and sold water already used and recycled in nursery operations. Some of the water sold is reportedly high in contaminants that make it unfit for agricultural uses but still useful for landscaping.
There is now enough demand for trucked water that Goleta Water is considering hauling and selling its recycled water. The agency is looking into permitting such an operation, Hamilton said.
Measure P: Voters to consider ban on oil well stimulation
By Peter Dugré The most hotly contested voter initiative on the Santa Barbara County Ballot, Measure P, asks voters to consider whether to alter land use codes to bar injecting water and chemicals into oil wells in order to induce the flow of oil and gas to the surface. Proponents of Measure P consider the practice of injecting steam or chemicals into oil wells too risky and under-regulated, and say new wells using enhanced extraction techniques must be banned. Opponents have said the ban is too far reaching and will result in what amounts to a shutdown of the oil industry on Santa Barbara County land.
What Measure P does Measure P bans new uses of well stimulation treatments and secondary and enhanced recovery operations in the incorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. Any projects that have yet to be approved using cyclic-steam injection, hydraulic fracturing and matrix acidization to extract oil or gas would be banned. Existing and already permitted projects would be allowed to continue to operate. Additionally, if it can be demonstrated that property rights are violated under the United States or California constitutions, projects will be exempted from new regulations. Regulations would not apply to projects within the City of Carpinteria.
Hydraulic fracturing is the technique of injecting pressurized water and chemicals into rock formations in order to fracture it and allow for oil and gas to flow into the well. Matrix acidization involves the injection of hydrofluoric acid into wells to dissolve rock and allow oil to flow up. Cyclic steam injection is the process of heating up water to high temperatures and injecting it to create pressure and heat oil in order to induce flow.
What would be impacted According to the text of Measure P, “most Santa Barbara County oil requires the use of enhanced recovery techniques, typically steam injection.” Passing Measure P would ban steam injection, thereby limiting the level of success oil companies would have in the future of extracting oil and gas resources in Santa Barbara County. By far, cyclic-steam injection is the most used of the extraction techniques Measure P could ban. According to Measure P, the process uses a great deal of energy, up to one barrel of oil worth for every two barrels extracted, and contributes to air pollution by emitting greenhouse gases.
Drilling still permitted Oil and gas could still be recovered by natural pressure in the wells or electric pumps. Wells already using any of the enhanced recovery or well stimulation techniques banned by Measure P could continue to operate.
Potential revenues lost Currently oil companies contribute $20.3 million in property taxes to Santa Barbara County, of which 62 percent goes to schools, 22 percent to the county general fund and another 13 percent to the SB County Fire Protection District. The Fiscal-Impact Statement by the County Auditor-Controller included with the voter information pamphlet states that “property tax related to oil and gas production would also be expected to drop over time, unless new oil and gas reserves are discovered and are extracted using primary recovery methods.”
In other words, as oil is removed from the ground, less of it remains. In the future, the amount of revenue generated from oil extraction would depend on how many wells are drilled and are stimulated by natural pressure or pumps only.
Additionally, oil extracted on county property currently pays about $23 million annually in royalties to the state. An unspecified amount of that money returns to local government agencies.
County-wide financial losses could also result from future jobs in the oil industry as part of the overall economy. The county could also incur costs from defending Measure P if any oil companies challenge its legitimacy.
Environmental benefits According to the Measure P Fiscal Impact Statement by the county auditor-controller, “While a cost cannot be put on environmental impacts, a decrease in oil and gas processing will benefit the county by lowering the risk of potential fiscal costs related to any environmental damage from the oil and gas extraction processes.” Banning well stimulation techniques would eliminate some risk of degradation of water and air pollution or other inherent risks of oil spills and the financial liability of having to clean up spills or contamination.
Arguments for Measure P Proponents say that banning what they label as high-intensity oil extraction techniques will protect groundwater from contamination, preserve water from being used in great quantities for oil extraction, protect health by reducing toxins in the environment and protect air by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Protections for existing operations retain current jobs and tax revenues while preserving the environment.
Arguments against Measure P The types of well stimulation Measure P would ban are so common that banning them will amount to ending the oil industry on unincorporated lands in Santa Barbara County. Hydraulic fracturing, the practice known as fracking, which has been subject to great scrutiny for its potential to contaminate aquifers, is not used in the county. County coffers and the economy would suffer from reduced oil industry activity.
Cate teacher claims “Let’s Make a Deal” spotlight
Cate School teacher Renee Mack recently became a big fan of “Let’s Make a Deal,” and anyone can view her enthusiasm for the show by tuning in to CBS on the morning of Oct. 23. Mack went with a group of girlfriends to the taping of the show on Oct. 13 and was approached in her seat by host Wayne Brady, who looked at her and said, “Let’s make a deal.” Though Mack didn’t win a big prize and could not divulge the details of her “deal,” she said that the experience was “great fun.” Dressing up and acting silly is part of the thrill, she reported while recommending that everyone go online to get free tickets and attend a taping at the Sunset Boulevard CBS studio. “The city council should go,” she said. “The AYSO board should go.” The episode featuring Mack is scheduled to air on Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. on channel 12.
Lou Grant harkens back to Simple Times
Supporters of Lou Grant Parent-Child Workshop gathered on Oct. 18 to raise fun and funds for the pre-school where parents and children learn and play together. Themed Simple Times, the elegant event was a smashing success. (Photos by Annette Samarin and Lea Boyd)
Warriors fall 28-0 at Cantwell: Team prepares for homecoming against Nordhoff
By Peter Dugré
Warrior football suffered from a bad habit of handing the ball over in a 28-0 loss at Cantwell-Sacred Heart on Oct. 17. The teams entered halftime tied at 0-0, but four second-half Warrior turnovers all led to short fields and touchdowns for Cantwell.
“When you turn the ball over that many times, you’re not going to win,” commented Warrior coach Ben Hallock. In all, the team had eight turnovers while forcing three from Cantwell.
Two of the Warrior interceptions were particularly costly in the first half. The team traveled down to the 5-yard line on a 14-play drive before losing the ball and coming up empty on the scoreboard on one occasion. Then, a 12-play drive stalled on the 3-yard line, where Cantwell stole it back again. The Warrior defense held its ground throughout the first half, but in the second half could not keep Cantwell out of the end zone.
The Warriors (4-3) face Nordhoff High School (4-3) in the Tri-Valley League opener, on Friday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium. Each game of the three-game TVL schedule will be critical, as only two teams are ensured playoff spots. Hallock said the Warriors hope to continue to employ multiple running backs in an effort to control the ball.
The key to stopping the Rangers will be to handle their traditionally strong running game with which they mix playoff passes and the threat of the deep ball.
“A win here would be a big step moving toward playoffs, and a loss could be a big step back the other way,” commented Hallock of the high stakes of each league contest.
Bloom town: Girls Inc. dresses up Carpinteria with An Evening in Bloom
Girl's Inc.'s annual gala, An Evening In Bloom, produced an elegant evening and fundraising boost for the local organization dedicated to seeing local girls bloom into strong, smart and bold women. (Photos David Powdrell and Robin Karlsson)