Fisheries

About the Program

The United States Bureau of Reclamation currently operates and maintains Bradbury Dam and associated water transport and delivery structures, collectively known as the Cachuma Project on and near the Santa Ynez River for several local water agencies.  The Santa Ynez River is about 900 square miles in watershed area with Bradbury Dam located approximately 48 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) is the agency that oversees protection of Southern California steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss).  The Cachuma Project Biological Opinion (BO) and the Lower Santa Ynez River Fish Management Plan (FMP) were issued in 2000 for implementation of steelhead management actions developed over many years of study by the Cachuma Project Member Units. 

On behalf of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, COMB is responsible for implementation of the 2000 Biological Opinion and Fish Management Plan related to the Cachuma Project on the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara, California. These activities include ongoing scientific studies along the river, monitoring and recording changing conditions, and implementation of fish passage improvements as outlined in the 2000 Biological Opinion.  

In addition, a consensus based, long-term Fish Management Program was developed which provides protection for steelhead/rainbow trout downstream of Bradbury Dam through a combination of water releases from Bradbury Dam through the Hilton Creek watering system, and the removal or modification of numerous fish passage barriers to steelhead on tributaries to the mainstem Santa Ynez River. By implementing these actions, stakeholders in the Cachuma Project have created significant additional habitat for steelhead within the Santa Ynez River watershed.

Program Funding

The Cachuma Project Member Units fund the cost of the fisheries program. The annual budget ranges between 1.5 million and 2.5 million depending on the scope of the fisheries activities for the year. To offset these costs, grant money is actively sought, and used toward implementing the fish passage projects identified in the Fish Management Plan and Biological Opinion. Other revenue has been available from the Cachuma Project Master Contract Renewal Fund (Renewal Fund) and Cachuma Project Trust Fund (Trust Fund), and the Santa Barbara County Cachuma Betterment Fund.

The Renewal Fund and Trust Fund are two separate environmental funds that have been established through contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). Summarizing the purposes of the two funds, money is available for three general categories:

  1. Environmental studies and projects related to the Santa Ynez River. (This includes water rights-related studies).
  2. Water conservation and wastewater reclamation by Cachuma Project members.
  3. Cachuma Project betterment.

The annual revenue from these funds is approximately $250,000 to $300,000 per year. An additional $100,000 per year is also available from the Santa Barbara County Cachuma Betterment Fund. There has been general consensus since 1996 that the combined funds should be used for Lower Santa Ynez River Fisheries program.

An extensive grant program is also in place.