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Gibraltar reservoir resources continue to be a concern due to increasing silt

Issues involving the capacity of Gibraltar Reservoir continue to be a concern when South Coast water reserves are evaluated.

The dam along the Santa Ynez River between the Montecito back country hills and the Santa Ynez Valley has significant capacity loss due to silt. The runoff dirt has been increased in part due to the burnt hills from the Zaca, Rey and Thomas fires.

Santa Barbara Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark says eventually as the silt builds up further, it will reduce the capacity of the dam. In a recent interview with NewsChannel Three he said, with large storms that sediment will begin going through the dam gates and downstream into Cachuma Lake.

If no dam existed, that’s the direction of the silt flow naturally.

The next concern will be the loss of capacity in Cachuma. He says the regional water managers will soon “study sediment and in particular how to deal with it that on a larger scale. It is a matter of keeping the sediment moving downstream. When it comes to Gibraltar and it spills, that sediment just heads into Cachuma right? So right now Gibraltar has done a great job in protecting Cachuma when Gibraltar eventually silts up Cachuma is going to start seeing that full brunt.”

The Santa Barbara County Public Works Department says it will not be cloud seeding this winter over Cachuma due to the issues with sediment coming off the burnt hillsides.

Cachuma Lake is the largest source of drinking water for the South Coast. It is currently at a 31 percent capacity. State water project allocations are being delivered via the coastal branch aqueduct and the conservation efforts, for example, in Santa Barbara remain consistently at 30 percent or more which helps to reduce the draw on the lake.

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