Cachuma Conservation Release Board

Cachuma Project Settlement Agreement

The historic Cachuma Project Settlement Agreement, for the first time in many decades brought peace among the variant parties with water rights interests in the Lower Santa Ynez River. The parties to the Settlement Agreement are the Cachuma Conservation Release Board, the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District ID No. 1, the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, and the City of Lompoc.

The Settlement Agreement was executed in 2002 and resolves key issues related to the protection of downstream water rights. Through negotiation of the Settlement Agreement, the parties developed a detailed understanding of downstream water quality and supply impacts, as well as impacts to Cachuma Project supplies. Those impacts, while adding to water management challenges for water users downstream of Bradbury Dam and in Santa Barbara County's South Coast Region, are understood and accepted by the parties.

The Settlement Agreement is partially dependent upon implementation of the fisheries management actions identified in the Cachuma Project Biological Opinion (BO) and Lower Santa Ynez River Fish Management Plan (FMP) for the protection of endangered steelhead. It also adopts agreed upon Modified Winter Storm Operations to prevent flooding in the lower river. Lastly, the parties agreed to cease all future litigation against one another regarding their respective water rights.

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) holds the Cachuma Project water rights permits on behalf of the Cachuma Member Units. Although not a signatory, Reclamation strongly endorsed the Settlement Agreement and formally requested that the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) modify certain terms of WR 89-18 determined by the parties to be necessary to protect water rights on the Santa Ynez River downstream of Bradbury Dam.

The Cachuma Project's continued operation and effect are dependent upon the State Board's acceptance and technical modifications to WR 89-18, as well as other provisions of the Settlement Agreement as the appropriate protections for downstream water rights. The State Board has the authority to issue a decision acknowledging the Settlement Agreement, including the proposed modifications to WR 89-18, as the means for resolving the public trust and water rights issues identified as "key issues" in Phase 2 of the Cachuma Project Water Rights hearings, the outcome of which has been pending since 2003.