For the first time in six years, water began spilling out of Gibraltar Reservoir in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday, improving the prospects for re-filling Lake Cachuma downstream on the Santa Ynez River.
Gibraltar, which serves the city of Santa Barbara, reached the full mark about 1 a.m. and began releasing water into the Santa Ynez River, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department.
Combined, Gibraltar’s four spillways were releasing a total of about 440 cubic feet per second, sending it downstream toward Lake Cachuma, which stood at 11.6 percent full by late afternoon but remains 97 feet below its own spill level.
Gibraltar reportedly last spilled in March 2011.
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The Santa Ynez River below the dam along Paradise Road was running noticeably higher Tuesday, with flows that have not been seen in several years.
Lake Cachuma has risen nearly 6 feet since midnight Thursday as a trio of winter storms has drenched the region.
While the increase to Cachuma, which provides much of southern Santa Barbara County’s water supply, is welcome, it’s far from enough to overcome years of severe drought, according to local water officials.