H-LOMPOC

Mar 21, 2011 9:47 PM by Ariel Wesler

Santa Ynez river floods at least 400 acres of farmland

Some Lompoc farmers are calling for action after the Santa Ynez River overflowed, wiping out hundreds of acres of their crops. The water flooded farmland near Central and Douglass Avenue in Lompoc, but farmers say the farmers say the damage is preventable.

It's a major loss for a handful of Lompoc farmers.

"$100,000 just in one of the celery fields, probably, said Robert Guerra of Santa Barbara Farms.

Their fields filled with water from the Santa Ynez River, and they say you can't just blame the rain.

"Various government agencies can't agree to let us clean out some of the willows and at least put a ditch in it, so the water would stay in the river," said John Silva of Silva Farms. "You can't get past the environmental groups."

"It's like somebody telling you, you can't clean your rain gutter, which they're doing to us. It's just coming on to all of the farmers," Guerra said.

Santa Barbara County's Flood Control District says this is the fastest the Santa Ynez River has flowed in quite a few years. Farmers saw similar flooding back in 2005.

All the flooding has affected five different companies. Farmers estimate it's put at least 400 acres of land underwater and destroyed nearly half a million dollars in crops.

But it's more than just crops. The water also washes away prime soil.

"Once that's gone, down the river and into the ocean, it's gone forever. There's no replacing that," said Bob Campbell of Campbell Ranch.

The county says clearing the brush from the river is a complex process with many federal and state regulations, too many regulations, farmers say, that leaves them wading through the red tape.

The county says it's continuing to work with various groups to address the problem. One issue is that parts of the river wind through Vandenberg Air Force Base. That's federal property and off limits to county flood control.

Farmers say it could take months to make up for their losses.

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