Solvang declares level 2 drought emergency; financial penalties at stake for those who do not keep | Local News


Solvang City Council Members reluctantly declared a Stage 2 drought emergency last week, with mandatory water use restrictions coming into effect after the September meter readings. Consumers who do not reduce their water consumption will face financial penalties starting in October.

Councilor Robert Clarke cast the dissenting vote in Decision 4-1 on August 23.

The statement and related restrictions were adopted four months after the council declared a Stage 1 drought emergency and asked consumers to voluntarily reduce their water use. Instead, the community reacted by increasing its consumption by 15% in May, 7% in June and 10% in July.

“We are going in the wrong direction,” said Matt Van Der Linden, city engineer / director of public works.

Solvang customers used 22% more water in 2021 than in the same period the year before, while water supplies declined.

“Drought conditions have worsened in California and Santa Barbara County,” Van Der Linden said.

Eighty percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought conditions, he added, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts below-average precipitation in the southwestern states until winter 2022.

According to the August 23 report from the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District, Lake Cachuma is at less than 52% of its capacity, up from 55% on July 20.

Combined with the last two years being the driest two-year period since 1976-1977, water levels in Lake Oroville reached historic lows in early August 2021, falling below the former low rise. 645-foot sea set in September 1977. This main holding pond for the state’s project water system currently stands at 23% of its capacity.

Since 2003, the city of Solvang has relied on the State Water Project for much of its water consumption, with wells in the river and highlands, with water purchased from other agencies, to answer the question. The cost of 433 additional acre-feet of water purchased so far this year to meet user demand has exceeded $ 300,000.

One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, enough to meet the average annual water needs of about six people in most urban settings.

The city’s contractual allocation for the state project is 1,500 acre-feet per year, but the California Department of Water Resources allocations average 58% of that share, Van Der Linden said.

In 2021, the state allocated Solvang 75 acre-feet, or 5%, of its contractual share. Water customers were using nearly 690 acre-feet in August and are on track to consume 1,355 acre-feet by the end of the year, Van Der Linden said.

The news is not improving for 2022.

The city is expected to receive zero percent of its allocation in 2022, although Van Der Linden noted that the state’s early forecasts were generally low. This number will be updated on December 1 based on early precipitation and snowpack.

“What we are being told, even though we have an above average year in Northern California, is that the allowance will not exceed 10%,” said Van Der Linden.

He said the biggest reductions in customer water use will be sought in landscape irrigation. Irrigation meters are to be reduced by 50% compared to the same period in the 2019-2020 baseline. Any excess will be billed at double the water tariff in force, the first violation resulting in a single warning. Further overuse will result in an additional penalty of $ 500.

Single-family residential, commercial, industrial and institutional customers must reduce this reference period by 20% or face penalties of 1.5 times current water rates for exceedances of up to 100% of historical use and double the current rate for use above 100%.

Multi-family residential meters must be reduced by 10%. Additional usage up to 100% of base period usage will be billed at 1.5 times the current water tariffs, with double tariffs for any usage above 100%.

The bylaws will come into effect immediately after the September water meter reading, will be reflected on October bills, and will remain in effect until canceled by council.

Solvang appoints tourism advisory committee to oversee chamber

In other casesss

The city council extended until January 31, 2022, the COVID-induced closure of Copenhagen Drive from Alisal Road to Second Street. They also heard the results of the investigation that could lead to the segment’s long-term shutdown, pending further research and discussion.

The board also denied a Solvang Theaterfest request for $ 500,000 in funding over five years to support the $ 4.7 million renovation of the Solvang Festival Theater. City attorney David Fleishman told council that such a level of funding from a public body could “imply the going salary for the entire project,” which would increase costs.

City Councilor Robert Clarke also expressed concern about the city’s budget in times of uncertainty.

“If we have the money, my God, yes I would love to do that,” he said. “My concern is this: we don’t know where we will be in six months; it is not known whether the (transitional tourist tax) will increase; we don’t know if the governor is going to shut down the state again. We just don’t know, and that’s the problem with returning more employees. My main goal, like everyone else, is that it’s so upside down that we don’t know where we’re going to be.

Each member of the board expressed their support and appreciation for the theater. The board asked staff to work with Theaterfest in a way that would not impact wage regulation while meeting the financial needs of the project.

“I want them to leave here knowing that we support them and that we strongly support Theaterfest… We will make sure they get their money’s worth,” Clarke said.

City manager Xenia Bradford also noted that the city has reinstated the sign ordinance and enforcement has started. In addition, Solvang is currently recruiting a Director of Planning, Director of Human Resources (part-time position), Director of Public Works and a Recreation Coordinator. Offers were made to candidates for the recruitment of clerks and town planning assistants.

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