Tuesday, April 13, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 6

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 31st, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 5 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 5

Santa Barbara County seeks grant funding to patrol Santa Ynez riverbed

By Karen Garcia

Drivers are damaging private property and the environment in the Santa Ynez River and areas bordering Lompoc, according to residents’ complaints to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

“These vehicles cause various types of damage including damage to ecosystems, damage to fence lines where cattle have gotten loose, and we have also had instances where the riverbed is used to gain access to adjacent properties where thefts have occurred,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Raquel Zick said. 

At the end of February the Sheriff’s Office applied for funding from the State of California Parks and Recreation Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) grant program. County residents have until April 1 to submit their public comment on the application

Generally, Zick said, OHVs are prohibited in the riverbed, however, the office gets frequent calls reporting trucks and ATVs in restricted areas as well as adjacent private property. 

These complaints aren’t new. Zick said the issue has broadened in recent years, and the Sheriff’s Office is seeing an increase in similar activity throughout the county, including in the Santa Maria and Cuyama riverbeds. 

This is the eighth year that the Sheriff’s Office has applied for grant funding for OHV enforcement in Santa Barbara County. 

The Sheriff’s Office applied for a similar grant in 2016-17, and public comment received for that application, which was approved, was evenly split.

Mary Hamilton, an environmental scientist for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, said in her comment that she had observed the destructive effects of illegal OHV use in the riverbed.

“The Santa Ynez River is an important habitat for several protected species, including steelhead trout and OHV activity has a direct negative impact on the habitat used by this and other species,” Hamilton said. 

Larry Matulis commented on the 2019-20 application, saying that he felt there was more of a homeless, drug, and theft issue in the riverbed than OHV problem. 

“If the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office were serious about the environment, then an effort to eliminate pollution from those that cause major damage would be planned,” Matulis said. 

The application has a multi-step process that includes an opportunity for public comment and feedback before the final application is submitted on May 3.

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