Oceano’s unapproved water sale pursuit

February 11, 2013
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker

OPINION By JULIE TACKER

We are all aware of the decade’s long water shortage in Nipomo. For years the community has struggled with basin management, litigation and rising costs, a plight that will continue into the future.

In November the community went a different political direction than it has in the past, installing repeat director Bob Blair, a retired pharmacist, onto the Nipomo Community Services District Board. Many Nipomo residents are aware of the longtime father-son-like relationship between “Dr. Bob” Blair and Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) General Manager, Thomas Geaslen. It is also well known, that Geaslen and Blair have close ties to Supervisor Paul Teixeira; Geaslen’s wife is the supervisor’s legislative aide.

These close knit Three Musketeers have concocted a “magic pill” to solve the water problems for Nipomo. In a reverse Robin Hood move, they have sent henchman, Geaslen, to steal from the poor in Oceano ($40,000 MHI) and give to the rich in Nipomo ($65,000 MHI).

On January 25, Geaslen approached the Nipomo Community Services District’s Water Alternative Evaluation Committee, offering a “temporary” sale of Oceano water. He is quoted in the press saying the idea is “us trying to be good neighbors.” Geaslen, a Nipomo resident and ratepayer of NCSD, has a dog in the fight — albeit a Chi Wawa, admits his “agenda” is to increase revenue at the OCSD, where his healthy paycheck is derived.

What Geaslen seems to be overlooking is 84 percent of Oceano voters sent a clear message to the OCSD that “an election shall be held prior to any permanent sale of water to an entity outside the Oceano Community Services District.” Geaslen explained to the NCSD committee that the people’s initiative was, “rather weak and very, very ambiguous.” Insinuating that it can be overcome, he said, “So even though it says it must need a vote of the people, it doesn’t say who has to vote, what the vote is and all that, so if it came to it, there would be some technical and legal challenges to it.”

Approved ballot measure or not, in 2011 when previous OCSD management tried to sell the community’s water, Oceano citizens made a difficult choice. To either tax themselves, via a 218 protest process for a water rate increase or let the district sell its largest asset, its water — its future.

A series of water/sewer rate increases began in April of that year and have been incrementally increasing each year ever since. The “either/or” choice did not authorize “both.”

Geaslen tells his Board at every meeting that he has “turned it around” and the district has regained its financial health, leaving one to wonder why the push to sell any water, even temporarily.

Asserting he had permission from his Board and the Northern Cities Management Area (NCMA) group, Geaslen gave a 35-minute presentation to the NCSD committee wherein he proposed a 500 acre-foot per year allocation of blended waters from Oceano’s three sources (Lopez, State and groundwater), for 10-years, with multiple 5-year extensions. Geaslen also suggested he could broker the transfer of recycled water from the South County Sanitation District or perhaps the water companies should consider consolidation, he said, “As is being done on the east coast.” The water districts could combine, “Nipoceano” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Geaslen told the committee that he is in current negotiations with the city of Pismo Beach for water sales, follow up communications with the city engineer prove no such negotiations are underway. If they were, it too would be without his board’s approval. Pismo’s engineer said any sale of any groundwater would be heavily scrutinized by the NCMA group.

The OCSD Board has yet to have any water sale discussion, if Mr. Geaslen indeed had direction, as he claims he did; he received it without the benefit of the public, violating the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Geaslen was quick to answer the question if Supervisor’s Teixeira and Hill new about the proposal, saying, “yes” and boasted that Oceano was a “disadvantaged community” and is eligible for grants, but failed to mention that he is still delinquent on two audits and without a clean credit rating, Oceano will not be receiving any grants for a while.

Geaslen’s presentation went on and on suggesting that delivery costs would be minimal because they could intertie with Rural Water, a private water company in Arroyo Grande and that OCSD was “looking at transferring water through oil pipelines.” He thinks his alternative “would score a 10 and would not have “significant hurdles.”

Geaslen not only hasn’t discussed this proposal with his Board, he didn’t consult engineering experts who agree that Rural Water’s system is too small and would be too costly to upgrade to carry the volumes needed. Nor did he consult scientists and engineers who caution that oil pipelines are a toxic mess fraught with liability.

A week after the committee meeting, February 1, Geaslen met with Nipomo CSD General Manager, Michael LeBrun, together they walked the OCSD water facilities. LeBrun asked for a “term sheet” to take back to his committee and Board. Ill prepared to make any water sale offer to NCSD, Geaslen sent an email asking SLO County Public Works staff to provide details related to increasing the OCSD’s State Water allocation by 500 acre feet a year, what it would cost — including capital charges per acre foot and if there is capacity to deliver to Oceano. Geaslen is asking another agency to compile the details for his term sheet, all without his Board’s formal direction or any input from the community.

At the next NCSD committee meeting, February 4, one committee member, an engineer representing the Woodlands, did a cursory financial analysis for delivery of blended water from Oceano to Nipomo and found the cost to be on the order of that from Santa Maria. Another committee member suggested that permitting and environmental approvals for such a proposal would take five years to bring to fruition and Nipomo residents would need to vote to approve the purchase. Geaslen’s offer is too little too late and falls far short of the 2,500 acre feet a year that Nipomo is looking for.

When confronted at the February SLO County Water Advisory Council meeting about Geaslen’s “loose cannon” behavior, OCSD Vice President, Mary Lucey, said, “He’s MY loose cannon.”

The “magic pill” fails on its face and puts egg on the face of the OCSD Board. The next OCSD meeting is Wednesday, February 13, at 6:30pm at the district office. The agenda posted makes no mention of potential water sales.

Julie Tacker is a local activist who lives in Los Osos. Minutes documenting Geaslen’s presentation to the NCSD Water Committee meeting are available on the NCSD website and an audio recording is available upon request.

 


41 Comments

  1. justme says:

    Julie went to the Harvard school of Shenaniganery, Los Osos. I suggest you listen to her. The truth hurts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  2. blacksmith says:

    The initiative below was wrong. Here is the real one, including statement.

    AN INITIATIVE MEASURE FOR THE ENACTMENT OF AN ORDINANCE BY THE OCEANO COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT

    AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS REQUIRING THAT AN ELECTION SHALL BE HELD PRIOR TO ANY SALE OF WATER ON A PERMANENT BASIS.

    WHEREAS, Oceano’s water supply is of critical importance to the welfare, sustainability and growth of Oceano; and
    WHEREAS, the ratepayers of the district should be included in decisions of this magnitude;

    NOW, THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED, by the Board of Directors of the Oceano Community Services District as follows:

    An election shall be held prior to any permanent sale of water to any entity outside the Oceano Community Services District. All details of any proposed sale including impacts to Oceano, shall be presented in a report prepared by a registered water engineer and a certified public accountant. The conclusions of these reports shall be mailed to every registered voter residing in the district no later than 60 days prior to the election.

    NOTICE OF INTENTION TO CIRCULATE AN INITIATIVE PETITION

    Notice is hereby given of the intention of the persons whose names appear hereon of their intention to circulate the petition with Oceano Community Services District for the purpose of enactment of an ordinance by the District. A statement of the reasons for the proposed action as contemplated in the petition is as follows.

    STATEMENT
    This initiative is in response to the recent and continuing actions of the OCSD Board regarding the permanent sale of water to developers and entities outside Oceano. These sales are putting Oceano’s future growth and sustainability at risk.

    Oceano has 1,503AF (acre feet) of reliable water. Oceano currently uses 900AF. Oceano’s future demand at present is 1,418AF. The Board is currently proposing water sales of 450AF. This results in a future shortage of 365AF. (Source: OCSD Water Master Plan published in 2009) Equally troubling, the Board is pushing these sales through as quickly as possible without any staff reports or impact studies and without the input of the District’s Engineer.

    The ratepayers have been paying for these water supplies for years through their bi-monthly water bills. Oceano ratepayers should have the right to be fully informed and the right to vote on water sales that affect our future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  3. blacksmith says:

    Here is the text of the initiative

    OCEANO COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT
    ORDINANCE 2011 – 1

    AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS REQUIRING AN ELECTION TO BE HELD FOR ANY SALE OF WATER ON A PERMANENT BASIS

    WHEREAS, Oceano’s water supply is of critical importance to the welfare and growth of all the ratepayers of the district; and
    WHEREAS, the ratepayers of the district should be included in decisions of the district to sell this valuable resource;

    NOW, THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED, by the Board of Directors of the Oceano Community Services District (District)as follows:

    An election must be held for any permanent sale of water to anyone outside the Oceano Community Services District. All details of any proposed sale including impacts to Oceano, shall be presented in a report prepared and certified by a registered engineer the report shall be mailed to every registered voter residing in the district no later than 60 days prior to the election.
    Furthermore, any temporary sale of water exceeding a five year period and/or 200AYF to anyone outside the District must meet the same requirements as a permanent sale.

    And Gealsen doesn’t know who should vote? This guy is a first class liar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  4. cathy says:

    Send your resume to The National Enquirer.

    Ms. Tacker does not speak for the people of Oceano who actually care about truth and real facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 7

    • StatusQuoJoe says:

      What “truth and real facts” might those be Cathy?
      Did Geaslen offer water for sale or not? YES
      Has it been on an agenda in Oceano? NO

      I took the time to read 1/25 the NCSD committee minutes. Did you?
      Geaslen starts on page 7.

      http://ncsd.ca.gov/cm/Agendas_and_Minutes/Fiscal%20Year%202012-2013.html

      Looks ligit.

      Thacker does not speak for the people of Oceano; who does? Not our Board! Not Geaslen. Not you.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 12

      • cathy says:

        Did he speak with them about a temporary (meaning not permanent or giving up our rights) sale. Yes

        Has it been on the agenda? No

        Do I believe Mr. Geaslen and the BOD plan to sneak behind the people’s back. No

        Do I believe there are some hysterical conspiracy theories going on? Yes

        This Board and Gleasen have done more and cared more for the people than any since I have lived In Oceano. Every board member responds as does Mr. Geaslen. I personally received rude treatment or no response from the last managers. When Mr. Hill was President he would not respond to phone calls or e-mails. I’ll restate my opinion. Julie does not speak for me or anyone I know. I live in Oceano and I know a whole lot of residents. Residents who are very happy with our current state of affairs, BOD and manager. Residents who like myself do not like the time she and Jeff take up at our meetings and who also don’t want or need them to speak for us. I once asked them why they (Jeff and Julie) do it. Their answer was it was their “hobby.” Everyone is allowed free speech and opinion.

        Actually this is it for me to read or post on CCN. I’m interested in other points of view but it always ends up as personal bashing. I don’t feel it is of any benefit for me and feel most people who post really don’t care about the people or community of Oceano.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

        • MaryMalone says:

          QUOTING CATHY: “Did he speak with them about a temporary (meaning not permanent or giving up our rights) sale. Yes
          Has it been on the agenda? No
          Do I believe Mr. Geaslen and the BOD plan to sneak behind the people’s back. No

          ———-

          Catch up, Cathy. Geaslen has already gone behind the backs of OCSD’s residents by speaking on such an important issue in the “public comments” section of NCSD’s Supplemental Water Alternatives Committee meeting. His public comment took FIVE PAGES to be summarized in the committee minutes.

          He did not get approval from the BOD. The issue was not taken before the voters. Therefore, he did not have the authority to enter into such discussions.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 13

        • Willow says:

          Wow! Did it ever occur to you that all communities share a few similar challenges, problems? That maybe people from neighboring communities can share their knowledge and expertise ’cause they understand how things (including corruption) works and no community is immune?

          So let me get this straight: it’s ok for Gleason to take it upon himself to be a “good neighbor” to Nipomo, and offer them what he can (a water deal), but it’s not ok for Tacker to be a good neighbor to Oceano and share her knowledge of what’s going on.

          I see.

          And you, somehow, want me to believe you come from a balanced and unbiased perspective?

          You may not personally like Julie, but don’t discredit her contributions that come from her caring about what goes on. I think she understands we, like the rest of California, are forever engaged in battles over water, and if we’re ever going to truly have “good” government, including government that respects rights, water rights, and process, we’re just going to have to make sure there’s no room for any corruption to creep in.

          I’m surprised anyone living in the United States would be so naive as to think they should trust any politician or any director, or any manager of anything of import – and I think water falls into that category. Especially if you live in Oceano, after all that’s gone on and is going on! Which reminds me…. I thought OCSD adopted a resolution some years ago, (sometime between Cooney’s departure and the hiring of Montemurro) that REQUIRES the OCSD Manager to live in Oceano…. what happened to that? Why did they hire Gleason if he lives in Nipomo? Helllooooooo … did somebody make a boo-boo? Like the entire OCSD board that hired him?

          I think I just proved my point, cathy – the people need watchdogs to make sure EVERYONE is following the rules. Obviously you’re not doing it.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

          • MaryMalone says:

            Willow, there are some women who turn into star-eyed groupies for pi$$ant politicians who really are not respected, sometimes are crooked and/or incompetent, and have very little power. These pathetic women lose all perspective when it comes to their small-potatoes hero. As long as Mr. Small Potatoes remembers her name and pats her on the head once a month or so, their groupies will support them, no matter what the politician does.

            It is nauseating to observe, but it happens quite frequently.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 11

        • StatusQuoJoe says:

          Cathy, raising the water rates was all we agreed to. Now with FEMA money back in the coffers, I don’t think we need to be taxed any more. I’d like a full accounting of where all that money is going.
          Selling water (temporarily or permanently (which he represented could happen)) was off the table! I am still of that opinion.
          If the Board wants to discuss a sale of any kind….a Public Hearing at home in Oceano is where the conversation starts. Not Geaslen running over the hill wasting our time and Nipomo’s time, without ever asking the Board.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

          • StatusQuoJoe says:

            As for it being a “hobby” for J&J, they are at almost every meeting I catch on TV. They are in No. County as well as South. They would have to like what they do to endure the boredom of meetings. I admire someone who takes the time to learn the issues.

            Maybe if you skipped a couple of card games, you’d see what’s going on here in Oceano isn’t as rosy as the status quo has painted.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10

            • MaryMalone says:

              It takes a lot of effort to be a political activist, and those who spend the time and resources to be a political activist should be applauded, not dismissed as their activism being a “hobby.”

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

              • Jonathon says:

                I understand what Cathy is saying. The nasty mean spirited personal remarks are really bad. Quite sad really and I don’t blame her for giving up reading or posting on Cal Coast. It is difficult to take it seriously. I am following suit.

                Talk about pathetic perhaps MaryMalone should look in the mirror.

                Not that it matters or you care about accuracy but she did not dismiss their activism as a hobby this is what how they described themselves.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

                • MaryMalone says:

                  Jonathan, before you launch an ad hominem at me, you might want to try reading my post correctly.

                  I was replying in agreement with StatusQuoJoe’s post, in support of anyone who spends the time and effort to attend local government agencies’ board meetings.

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

      • MaryMalone says:

        It is legit, Joe. And what Tacker wrote about is just the tip of the iceberg.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

  5. Pelican1 says:

    Before you look at the splinter in your neighbor’s eye, take out the log in your own eye.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

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