Jameson Lake and the Thomas Fire

Murrieta Divide, Jameson Lake, Gouache on archival board, 5"x2 1/2"

Murrieta Divide, Jameson Lake, Gouache on archival board, 5"x2 1/2"

20 December 2017

Looking back at this time we have spent exploring, observing, learning about and recording the Santa Ynez River Watershed, I realize that it has been bracketed by a single element: fire.

What I’ve learned about the effects of a 7-year drought in our beloved region is that we are now in a continual fire season. We started with the Rey Fire in August, 2016 and are now ending with what may well end up being the largest fire in CA history, the Thomas Fire.

The most heart-breaking moment was seeing photos of the burned out area of Jameson Lake and Juncal Dam. This is the beginning of the SYR watershed and our reservoir system. 

                                                                                     photo: Ray Ford, Noozhawk

                                                                                     photo: Ray Ford, Noozhawk

The efforts of the combined fire fighting resources included a mandate to protect the watershed. This is after all, the primary source of water for our area and this damage will have long-term effects: ash, silt, muddy runoff and flooding when we do get rain, not to mention the loss of vegetation and habitat for many creatures.

The images from the burnt out Jameson brought home, yet again, the fragility of our watershed. 

                                                                                                                              photo: Nina Warner

                                                                                                                              photo: Nina Warner

It was a year ago to the day of this writing that we traveled up Gibraltar Road to Camino Cielo, down the backside to Jameson Lake to tour the Dam and area around the lake. It was a beautiful day, cold and clear. We hiked up Alder Creek to look at the historic flume, and walked up to the face of the dam and looked into the weir. We sat and had lunch with our hosts from the Montecito Water District, in front of the cabin that served as the dam-keepers home. It was burned down in the fire.

We are affected by any change to the water systems, whether natural or human-made, and this is a profound change. It will take a long time to recover.