SLO County Drought Task Force discusses state of emergency - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

SLO County Drought Task Force discusses state of emergency

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It has been a year since the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors declared a local drought emergency.

"Exceptional loss in crop and pasture," says County Board of Supervisors Administrative Analyst, Lisa Howe.  "California is in one of the most severe droughts on record.  Over the last four years reservoir levels have decreased, rain levels have diminished, as well as levels in streams."

Reservoir levels continuing to drop to dangerous lows.  According to Howe, Nacimiento is at 29%, Whale Rock and Lopez at  40%, and Salinas at 18% capacity. 

The lack of water sources is becoming a threat to the already existing fire dangers.

"If there is an ignition and under the right weather conditions, we could have a fire that could be devastating," says Cal Fire Chief Robert Lewin.  

And Cambria is under the fire department's microscope. 

"It is most visible in the Cambria community where we have 40% mortality in the pine forest," says Chief Lewin.   "We have pockets in that forest that have up to 80-90% mortality. That is just kindling wood sitting out in our wild lands."

If there is a fire, Chief Lewin says Cal Fire has a plan for the water they will use. 

"We are going to use alternative water sources," says Chief Lewin.  "In those communities that have threatened community water systems, we are going to use treated water from sewage treatment communities.   We are going to find water sources from agriculture land that later on after the fire we can replenish.   We may have to use ocean water in certain circumstances.   We are going to be driving and moving water from communities that have adequate water supplies to the fires." 

In the past four years, the county says it has received only two years worth of water and is in one of the worst drought situations in the state, setting the stage for not only an exceptional drought but an extreme fire season.   Cal Fire is implementing new plans for home inspections, dead tree removal, and community awareness of evacuation and communication.  

The next steps for the one-year old County Drought Task Force could include water reduction planning, monitoring of water use, and water emergency preparations.  

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