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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 1st, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 18

Cuyama, Chumash awarded thousands for environmental justice projects

By Kasey Bubnash

With the help of seperate $50,000 grants, two Santa Barbara County groups will soon be working to address pressing environmental concerns in their communities. 

In late June, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced a long list of participants in its 2019 Environmental Justice Small Grants Project, a competitive program that offers up to $50,000 in funding to assist nonprofits and federally-recognized tribal governments in addressing environmental issues in areas disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and hazards. 

The Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians won two of the 34 grants awarded. 

Lynn Carlisle, executive director of the Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center, said the nonprofit plans to use its $50,000, year-long grant to continue its work better educating all community members on the area’s groundwater issues. 

“This grant is incredibly helpful because it helps us put more resources to that effort,” Carlisle told the Sun

The Cuyama Valley is entirely dependent on groundwater and is one of only 21 basins of the 515 in California total that are considered in “critical overdraft,” meaning more water is being pumped and used than is being replenished by rain. Because of this overdraft issue, the Cuyama community is at risk of feeling severe impacts to its water availability, quality, and air quality, Carlisle said. 

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2015 requires Cuyama and other communities with basins in critical overdraft to submit groundwater management plans that will result in completely balanced basins by 2040, and Carlisle said a detailed outline of those strategies has to be submitted by Jan. 31, 2020. 

That means Cuymama residents need to become educated about fair and equitable groundwater management, Carlisle said. Using the Environmental Justice grant, the Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center will provide groundwater information, training, research, and networking opportunities to community members. Through several bilingual informational sessions, town hall meetings, and support group meetings, the Family Resource Center hopes to put most of its focus on Cuyama’s predominantly low-income, farmworker community, in an attempt to ensure that all community members can fully participate in the groundwater debate. 

“We want to be sure that all voices are heard,” Carlisle said. 

The Resource Center also plans to work with the Cuyama Joint Unified School District to develop a children’s curriculum on groundwater management and help produce a first annual “Cuyama Water/Aqua” Science Fair for elementary and high school students, ideas that Carlisle said have long gone unrealized for funding reasons. 

In South County, the Chumash plan to use their $50,000 grant to conduct a pesticide and agricultural pollutant exposure watershed assessment of the Zanja de Cota Creek, a body of water that runs through the Chumash reservation about 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara. The assessment is an effort to better understand how the reservation and its tribal members are impacted by neighboring agricultural and vinicultural operations, according to the CalEPA. 

During the assessment, the Chumash will collect and test water and atmospheric deposition samples for pollutants; identify surrounding agricultural land uses; identify commonly used pesticides, herbicides, nutrients, and chemicals; and assess application pathways used for pesticides and herbicides through air and water.

The Chumash then plan to engage tribal members in monitoring activities and educational workshops aimed at expanding the community’s knowledge about local water and air quality health risks, and increasing the community’s capacity to advocate for their health, and the health of environmental and cultural resources that are important to the Chumash. The tribe, according to the CalEPA, then hopes to spark up conversations with local landowners regarding the reduction or alteration of local pesticide use. 

“We are pleased that CalEPA has awarded us funding to perform pesticide and agricultural pollutant exposure assessments on Zanja de Cota Creek,” Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn wrote in an email to the Sun. “These assessments give us an understanding of the environmental issues that affect our community and the opportunity to address them.”




Weekly Poll
How should Lompoc respond to the lawsuit claiming its ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders can live is unconstitutional?

The city should fight the lawsuit in court.
The city needs to repeal the ordinance and settle the lawsuit.
Most cities in California have already repealed similar ordinances.
Keep the ordinance. Residents need it for public safety.

| Poll Results