CASITAS SPRINGS : Emergency Pipeline to Be Dismantled

An emergency $2-million pipeline built last year that allowed a Ventura County water district to help Santa Barbara receive state water for drought relief will be dismantled later this year after delivering far less water than was planned, officials said Friday.

Last month's heavy rains combined with the completion of a desalination plant in Santa Barbara has made the emergency pipeline obsolete, said Robert Almy, general manager of the Santa Barbara County Water Agency.

But Almy said the pipeline was a good investment at a time when the city's residents were facing 50% cuts in water use.

"If you have a piece of emergency equipment that operates as advertised, but you don't have to use it as much as was planned, do you call it a failure?" Almy asked.

The pipeline connected Santa Barbara with Ventura and Ventura with Oxnard, which is already linked to the State Water Project. So far, Santa Barbara has received only 580 acre-feet of water, enough to serve about 1,200 families for a year.

Another 660 acre-feet of water will be shipped to Santa Barbara before the pipeline is dismantled.

When the pipeline was approved in October, 1990, it was one of the most complex water-swapping deals ever devised in the state, officials said at the time. Under the agreement, Casitas Municipal Water District, which operates Lake Casitas, was to ship water to Santa Barbara, and withhold a like amount of water from the supplies it normally delivers to the city of Ventura.

The city of Ventura, in turn was to receive water from the State Water Project. But because Ventura has no connection to the state, the $2-million pipeline was constructed to link Ventura with Oxnard.

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