Lawsuit challenges Paso Robles groundwater ordinance

November 19, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT By STEVE HOCH

On behalf of a group of concerned landowners in Paso Robles, the Los Angeles based firm of Morris Polich & Purdy LLP (MPP) filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on October 30. The writ challenges the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Conservation Ordinance.

Adopted by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on September 20, the ordinance restricts certain discretionary property development, prohibits certain land divisions and makes changes to the San Luis Obispo County General Plan, purportedly to save water. The board also deemed the ordinance to be categorically exempt from the strictures of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“CEQA is supposed to work for everyone. The Board played fast and loose with its requirements. Our challenge is to assure fairness in the process in passing ordinances that effect the environment and the people of the community,” said Steven L. Hoch, an MPP partner. “You can’t decide to follow the rules sometimes and then not follow them for political expediency.”

Specifically, the writ claims that the board failed to take into account that the ordinance would produce many environmental impacts and was vague, ambiguous, incomplete and inadequate and that it improperly segmented, resulting in an improper, incomplete and inadequate “piecemeal” review of the potential impacts.

“We are attempting to convince the board that they made a mistake and hopefully reconsider the issue before the cost of their mistake takes too much out of the public’s coffers,” continued Mr. Hoch. “The funds are not coming out of the board’s pockets. Everyone in the county will have to pay for their error.”

Mr. Hoch is an environmental regulatory and litigation attorney who is a recognized authority and leader in his field with over 35 years of experience with both federal and state environmental laws and regulations.

Morris Polich & Purdy LLP is a law firm, with offices in Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, San Francisco and Las Vegas, that works with its clients on a national basis. They represent clients in every state, as well as many U.S. possessions, where their cases arise.

 


26 Comments

  1. The Gimlet Eye says:

    Do they put fluoride in the local water supply?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. obispan says:

    Wake up everybody. The looming Paso Robles Basin battle is headed for court as there are no laws governing water overdrafts, just the ability for one to sue over one’s water “rights”. This suit is just the kick-off. I believe it is valid as one class of water user is subject to restrictions with no look at the big picture, which will be in the county’s literal, not figurative, court. The Santa Maria Basin has a suit with over 1,000 litigants. The Santa Paula basin before that. This will be settled in court with restrictions on use. My advice to get your head ready for the next 10 years is to rent “Chinatown”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. Randy Sheila says:

    Let all the developers and ag interests take as much water as they want. When its all gone (down too far to be reached), they’ll all go bankrupt simultaneously causing a small market crash when the rest of us poor folk currently living in over-priced squalor can buy big land holdings for cheap. Unfortunately, wealth is like cocaine and one never has enough money (power or water). Then we’ll be the next generation of whiney, shameless and overpriveledged haters pointing fingers at our neighbors and scorning them for their selfish environmental plight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 11

    • MaryMalone says:

      You forgot the part about “working families will have to abandon their homes because when the groundwater is “down too far to be reached” by the “developers and ag interests,” it is “down too far to be reached” by the rest of us, too.

      Unsustainable water use practices have been the source of many environmental catastrophes.

      Right now, in the midwest, for the first time since Roosevelt instituted “dust bowl” remediation practices, there is massive erosion occurring in prime crop land again.

      Why? Because the price for corn and soybeans has risen, so ag interests are greedily going back to the same practices that created the dust bowl in the 1930s. They are putting more land into production, and the land they are putting into production is unstable.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  4. 4paso says:

    It was pretty clear from the testimony of staff and the public at the hearing that this action would do little or nothing to reduce groundwater use. Meanwhile, if you take a drive into the countryside you will see hundreds if not thousands of acres of new vineyards and alfalfa and row crop farmers pouring water on their crops with no accountability. With 2/3 of the groundwater going to agriculture you have to wonder when the politicians will focus on the real problem. Time for some “water boarding”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 8

    • MaryMalone says:

      It is the County that has been issuing all of those permits for new wells. Go to the County and ask them how many new well permits they issued last year. They have issued so many, they won’t even be able to give you a number, other than a vague “a whole bunch” or the like.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  5. standup says:

    The first thing that needs to change is to kick the lame duck out on the day the ballots are confirmed. Patterson has been a disaster for the working man trying to remain afloat with his/her business. Gibson is a no good cheat committing adultery and Hill, well, you know the rest. All three of these losers need a good kick in the (guess). With the lawsuit the state has filed against Larry Allen and the APCD, I would like to know how many dollars will be spent defending these lawsuits. Maybe, the ones in charge should pay for our defense. Maybe next time they won’t come up with stupid laws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 8

    • pasowino says:

      What’s so stupid about a law that preserves our precious groundwater from being sucked up by a few land owners? I suppose we should just let them pump water like crazy until the water table is all dried up then they can fly out of town on their private jets and leave the rest of us without any water?

      I’m lucky that my well hasn’t dried up yet, but people all around me have had to redrill new wells to get down to the “new” water table. Our area has seen water levels drop about 80 feet in the last 10-15 years. If something isn’t done to control the amount of water people are pumping out of the ground, the north county is going to be in a world of hurt.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 10

      • Citizen says:

        Pasowino,

        There’s nothing wrong with a law that will preserve the groundwater. This law will not do that because the people targeted are not the ones using up our water. It’s the vineyard owners who are using the water and draining the groundwater basin and they are not being touched.

        The only way to stop further depletion of the groundwater is to stop new vineyards and any other crops depending on heavy irrigation from being expanded. By state law, we can’t control water use by the existing vineyards–they own their water.

        The weeny BOS won’t do what they know they should do–stop new vineyards, so they came up with this plan that won’t do diddley as far as groundwater usage is concerned.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

        • MaryMalone says:

          Another issue is that the water isn’t just being used to grow grapes. The “Disneyland vineyard” vanity castles that accompany these tourist attractions, which are being pimped by the tourist industry, use a tremendous amount of water for non-vineyard uses.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

          • pasoparent5 says:

            Which vineyards are you referring to? I can’t think of one “Disneyland vineyard” that’s using a “tremendous amount of water for non-vineyard uses”. They all seem to be planting thousands of acres of grapes, grapes and more grapes…

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

      • MaryMalone says:

        Eighty feet is quite a bit. The scary part is that this has been accompanied by loss of aquifer space for storing water (soil compaction).

        Very interesting.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. SLOBIRD says:

    As I look at the picture above I can’t wait until we have at least one minority on this board, a woman. The rest look Republican, white, business capitalist. Considering three are democrats out to destroy us, this is a funny picture!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 17

    • Robert1 says:

      They are minorities, the state has more non-whites then whites which makes them minorities.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3

  7. Jorge Estrada says:

    The North County water is a valuable commodity, why should we conserve it for San Luis Obispo? The Salinas River collects water from our countie’s heaviest watershed, the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Range. If you don’t believe me, ask the Steelhead Trout, a fishery that seems to be protected only on the coastal streams.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

    • MaryMalone says:

      The majority of vineyards, especially the ones with newly-permitted wells from the county, are growing grapes and making wine that are exported to other countries, especially China.

      There is a “China Town” water-grab going on in North County. Land buyers just need to establish a use for the water from a well and, once the well is functioning, the price of the land skyrockets.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  8. racket says:

    If I were a Paso Robles area land owner, I would be livid:

    I paid my Planning Department, via my taxes, to write an ordinance this is counter to my interests.
    I paid my Supervisors, via my taxes, to approve an ordinance that is counter to my interests.
    Now, I have to pay County Counsel, via my taxes, to approve an ordinance that is counter to my interests.
    Plus, I’ve got to pay the jokers above to litigate my interests about this ordinance that is counter to my interests.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 12

    • catdude says:

      Just wondering, do you expect the Board to work for your personal interest or what they perceive to be the common interest? (Whether or not you agree with them.) Should they check with you personally before they make deliberations? Gee, that would be nice; sign me up too!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 13

      • racket says:

        I believe it’s called the Tyranny of the Majority. It sounds stupid, but it’s the same idea as millions of poor people voting themselves into the pockets of the few rich people. Same dynamic: Bunch of good-thinking non-stakeholders vote to take water which has historically belonged to someone else. They can do it because they are many, and the someone else’s are few.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

        • MaryMalone says:

          I’m sure that is balanced out by the few rich who, by using their money in supporting candidates and causes, are able to buy elections and implement public policy.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

      • MaryMalone says:

        Only the naive expect the elected politicians to work for anybody else but the politicians’ cronies and lobbyists.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Citizen says:

      Paso area land owners are livid. We have two arrogant big ego supervisors that do little but cause problems in the county for everyone else. These are people who think they know what’s best for the rest of us–two losers in their own lives who get their kicks by telling everyone else what they should do. It’s appalling that Adam Hill (failed English instructor at Poly) and Bruce Gibson (PhD in Geophysics whose career consisted of returning to the family farm) are dictating to many successful people in this county.

      It’s like having Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill advising everyone else on their love life. What a joke.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  9. Kevin Rice says:

    This lawsuit brought to you by… The Three Amigos! Lucky Gibson, Dusty Hill, and Ned Patterson. Arriba!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 38 Thumb down 11

    • SLOBIRD says:

      Finally, someone is going to challenge the decisions being made by these three inept Supervisors who are elected by the Democrtic Party and Committee and are hell bent on Agenda 21 items that continue the American way of life. I am for protecting the enviroment, recycling, reuse and modernization. I am not for over regulating, ridiculous mandates and destroying businesses and markets. Common is not used in these decisions. When Mr. Allen (Air Quality) with the help of the Tribune challange the State in the dust pollution issues I hope Mr. Allen has a budget to pay for his mistakes. The man is another one insane with his power.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 30 Thumb down 13

      • catdude says:

        Funny, I thought the voters elected the stupidvisors(sic).

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 12

        • obispan says:

          (sic) is used when quoting others words or phrases that are grammatically wrong to let the reader know that it is not a transcription error. You meant to use a nonsense word, which is perfectly o.k. (sic) would be misused if it were used by someone quoting you as it would literally mean they didn’t get it and thought you could not spell “supervisors”.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

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