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All of the cannabis sites in the Nojoqui Falls Corridor would be drawing water from the tiny Nojoqui Creek, a first order stream that empties into the Santa Ynez River.  The Nojoqui Creek water basin starts at Nojoqui Summit, roughly follows the path of Highway 101, and empties into the Santa Ynez River in Buellton. This is the Nojoqui Falls Corridor.

To access this map online, browse to the Santa Barbara County Electronic Map for Cannabis and zoom in.

 

The food growing, grape growing, agroecology and agritourism businesses, residents and native wildlands of the Nojoqui Falls Corridor (the Corridor) are under threat from as many as eight (8) proposed industrial cannabis sites. This includes Restoration Oaks Ranch, Folded Hills Ranch & Farmstead, Rockin' L7 Cattle Company, Freedog Farms, Family Ranch Produce, Pork Palace, Santa Barbara Blueberries, Wild Farmlands Foundation, Alisal Guest Ranch, Nojoqui Falls Park and others.

Because the Nojoqui Falls Corridor is a primary gateway to and from the Gaviota Coast and the many agritourism communities and attractions of the Santa Ynez Valley, industrial cannabis in this important thoroughfare is also a threat to them. 

The first of the proposed sites has already been approved, but not licensed, for 25.93 acres (Nojoqui Farms- Cannabis Cultivation permit #: 19LUP-00000-00530). The Santa Barbara County planning commissioners' public appeal date for this permit has not been scheduled. 

Why Ban Commercially Grown Cannabis In the Nojoqui Falls Corridor?
There are a multitude of reasons. We are asking the county to look at the cumulative impacts of all of the proposed cannabis sites throughout the Corridor together, not indivirually. The unintended consequences of approving these projects one at a time over many years cannot be forecast any more than we can forecast future weather cycles. For precedent regarding the risk of overdrawing a finite water basin, look to the ongoing water problems of the San Joaquin Valley. 

1) Water Overuse in a Warming Climate
112221 Overdrawn San Joaquin Groundwater BasinSan Joaquin Valley Ground Subsidence 1925 to 1977. The valley approved wells without weighing the long-term risks of sustained groundwater pumping.California has declared a state of emergency due to drought . According to the Cachuma Water District, the Nojoqui Creek Water Basin has never been studied by relevant federal or state public agencies (Click to read the letter from Cachuma Water District). Perhaps it hasn't been studied because it is such a tiny water basin, recharged solely by rainfall that manifests on the surface only in the Nojoqui Creek, a first order stream, and constrained below ground between the Nojoqui grade and its mouth at the Santa Ynez River- see graphic above. (Click to learn about first order streams and the classification of streams and rivers).

There simply isn't enough groundwater to support commercial cannabis sites and continue to support the existing oak savannah ecosystems, farms, ranches and residents already growing grapes, berries and other foods in the corridor. In 2016, with no cannabis sites, the well shared between Restoration Oaks Ranch and Folded Hills Ranch located right next to Nojoqui Creek went dry. 2016 was the third year in a row of below average rainfall in the Nojoqui Falls Corridor.

Less rain means diminished aquifers throughout the whole Nojoqui Creek water basin. When it is gone, it is gone for everybody. We should be more cautious than the supervisors and farmers of the San Joaquin Valley and pay attention to the future. The USGS has done enough research on groundwater decline and depletion to be confident of the results. We must be mindful. Pumping water out of the ground faster than it is replenished over the long-term may cause unrecoverable water problems. Click here to learn more about groundwater decline and depletion

From a water perspective, we believe the county should look at all proposed sites in the Corridor holistically, because they all tap into the same tiny Nojoqui Creek water basin. Approving these sites one by one is a death by a thousand cuts. The whole Nojoqui Creek Corridor, including wildlife, residents, croplands, agritourism businesses, agroecology projects and Nojoqui Falls Park, dies as one without sufficient water.

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2) Food Security
We can't provide food security for our local communities without local farmlands growing and distributing local food. Every acre used by an industrial cannabis operation is one less acre of local food-growing farmland. Perhaps more importantly in the Nojoqui Falls Corridor, because of the limited water supply, every new acre of industrial cannabis jeopardizes the already established acres of food-growing land. There are many proven techniques to grow food in regions that do not have a lot of water that we can implement to increase the amount and quality of our local foods. For centuries, tailored dryland farming practices have been used successfully all over the world to grow food in water-poor but fertile lands. These practices would certainly work in the Nojoqui Falls Corridor and other parts of Santa Barbara County. As a community, our greater need is food and food security. If we are committed, we can do this.

We believe the county should prioritize its people, food and food security over industrial cannabis in the fertile agricultural wildlands of the Nojoqui Falls Corridor.

3) Vehicle Traffic
Industrial cannabis will increase cargo van, car and heavy truck traffic in a section of Highway 101 that is less than 3 miles long and has no off ramps or onramps. For the cannabis industry, transportation needs to mitigating the risk of crime, so smaller armored vans and trucks similar to the armored trucks used to transport money have become popular [Learn more about armored "cannavans"]. Its hard to get good data, but  1 acre of unprocessed cannabis per one Sprinter-size cargo van seems about right. In the Nojoqui Falls Corridor, all traffic onto the 101 freeway must accelerate to ~70 MPH from a dead stop. This is difficult and more dangerous for heavy cargo vans and trucks. All cannabis sites will have roughly the same harvest seasons with the same peak traffic calendar. Add up to 100,000 UPick, wine tasting and other agritourism guests to the peak cannabis traffic in May/June/July.

From a traffic perspective, we believe the county and CalTrans should look at all 8 currently proposed sites holistically and consider the safety of heavy trucks entering and leaving this short section of Highway 101 during peak tourist and UPick season. How many tourists and families will be mingling with these heavy vehicles at 70 MPH?

4) Crime and Business Viability
As more regions across the country legalize growing cannabis, the high cost of growing in Santa Barbara County will force growers to grow more per acre (which means more water), grow for the black market (which means more crime), or quit (which means the lands they occupied will be left in disrepair for the landowners and the community). As a blueberry farmer that has already experienced the market change that bigger farms with less overhead bring, I can tell growers and landowners throughout Santa Barbara County that the downward pressure on the fair market value of cannabis will continue until most of the cannabis growers here go out of business. It is not "if", it is "when".

We believe the county should carefully consider the long-term viability of industrial cannabis operations that are mostly temporary. Tax revenue in the short term from an industry that drives agritourism away and shrinks local businesses in the long term is bad for Santa Barbara. People schedule their family vacations around the opening of the blueberry season for a reason- its spectacular. The Nojoqui Falls Corridor is a visually stunning, heavily traveled artery between San Diego and San Francisco. Putting up hoops and greenhouses, then potentially introducing crime and the unmistakable odor of man-made industry is bad for all of Santa Barbara County.

5) Property Values and Ecosystem Conservation
If the Nojoqui Falls Corridor becomes an industrial cannabis zone, or if the wells dependent upon the Nojoqui Creek water basin become depleted in the summertimes and/or fail altogether due to persistent drought and overuse, all property values through the whole Nojoqui Falls Corridor area will go down. Every landowner and community organization with direct vested interest in preserving the natural state of the corridor, like the Santa Barbara Land Trust and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, will be rightfully disturbed by the poor decisions and short-sighted leadership that led to the devaluation and environmental disrepair of this special part of Santa Barbara County. 

SUMMARY
None of the landowners or businesses in the Nojoqui Corridor are opposed to cannabis idealogically. The therapies and medicinals  derived from it are proven. We are all, however, opposed to cannabis in the fragile, rain-poor ecosystems of the Nojoqui Falls Corridor.

We question the reasoning behind growing cannabis over food, and we wonder if the long term effects of its presence in this beautiful and unique sliver of Santa Barbara County has been thought through sufficiently by the people that are supposed to be protecting it. What is the Santa Barbara brand? What are our values? What do our many visitors from around the world think our values are? 

It is unreasonable to expect commercial cannabis operations to happily coexist with agroecology, food-growing and tourism operations in the same narrow Nojoqui Falls Corridor. Neither the tiny Nojoqui Creek watershed nor the prominent wind eddies will support it.

Visitors will stop visiting. The gateway to and from the Gaviota Coast and the Santa Ynez Valley, including Buellton, Solvang and Santa Barbara Wine Country becomes an industrial zone to the senses. Long-term county tax revenues derived from Transitory Occupancy Taxes will suffer as the agritourism businesses decline.

There are many other areas in the county that are not as visible, heavily trafficked or water-constrained and fragile. Please ban industrial cannabis in the Nojoqui Falls Corridor.

 

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WANT TO TAKE MORE ACTION?

Call or email the offices of the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors:
1st District: Das Williams, Vice Chair | (805) 568-2186 | dwilliams@countyofsb.org
2nd District: Gregg Hart | (805) 568-2191 | ghart@countyofsb.org
3rd District: Joan Hartmann, Chair | (805) 686-5095 | jhartmann@countyofsb.org
4th District: Bob Nelson, Chair | (805) 346-8407 | bob.nelson@countyofsb.org
5th District: Steve Lavagnino | (805) 346-8400 | steve.lavagnino@countyofsb.org

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