Two lawsuits challenge Paso Roble water ordinance

November 26, 2013

water2Two lawsuits seeking to have the Paso Robles water moratorium ordinance overturned were filed against San Luis Obispo County on Monday.

On Oct. 8, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors extended its urgency ordinance that restricts water use in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. The ordinance prohibits new development in the Paso Robles basin that uses more water than it saves.

The Paso Robles Water Integrity Network, an association of landowners within the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, is seeking to have the ordinance rescinded because the SLO County Board of Supervisors “abused its discretion and failed to proceed in a manner prescribed by law when adopting the ‘urgency’ ordinance,” the lawsuits filed by attorney Sophie Treder says.

According to the lawsuit, the county failed to provide enough evidence to demonstrate a “current or immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare” and did not proceed as required by state law.

In addition, the county improperly determined the ordinance was exempt from California’s Environmental Quality Act, the suit says.

In the second suit filed by attorney Richard Zimmer on behalf of several property owners within the Paso Robles Basin, the plaintiffs are seeking to “preserve and protect their overlying groundwater rights” through a quiet title action designed to overturn the ordinance.

Zimmer named the county and four municipal water companies that sell groundwater to customers in San Luis Obispo County – Paso Robles, Templeton Community Services District, Atascadero Mutual Water Company, and the San Miguel Community Services District – as defendants in the suit.

The plaintiffs argue that California laws give superior water rights to land owners with property above the basin over property owners outside the basin. The Paso Robles water moratorium ordinance restricts usage to properties dependent on a well while giving priority rights to the county and municipal water companies, the suit says.

“Each of the defendants currently extracts groundwater for use on property not held by the extracting defendant or for some other non-overlying use,” the lawsuit says.

 


15 Comments

  1. pasovino says:

    So the land barrons should rule? Are you KIDDING?!~

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. standup says:

    There is a term called carrying capacity. The limiting factor could be food, water, shelter, etc. that limits the number of a species that live in a certain area. If we aren’t there yet with our water consumption, we are sure getting close and we may have already exceeded that. Do we just continue to suck water from the basin unabated until there is none left just to fill a bottle with a recreational drug and water our lawns? We need to step back and look at our priorities. The City of Paso Robles planning department also needs a lesson in water consumption. The cutsie green parking strips require lots of water and shoddy maintenance from Martinellis all for what? What about drought tolerant, low maintenance landscapes? Why isn’t there a limit on lawn square footage. We waste water like there is no tomorrow and folks, tomorrow is coming. Water wars will exceed oil wars sooner than later.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

    • water_heist says:

      Yep, lets also ask Public Works why they are spending 50 Million on a Wastewater Treatment Facility that will not even treat to the highest standards of ReUse Water. This could be used for landscape irrigation. Los Angeles and Orange County do this with millions of gallons each and every day.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. water_heist says:

    I applaud the land owners who are standing up for their property and water rights. It is a shame that the SLO BOS seems to be complicit in usurping rights and being snowed by leaders of local groups with yard signs, etc. who they themselves, knowingly or unknowingly are in fact are being driven by “Out of County” interests, both public and private. Do your own research on the Kern Water Bank for a prelude to what Billionaires and local yocal SLO Politicians want for our County. What a disaster in the making!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    Sadly, if the State recognizes a County to be working in support of their plan to control all water, more taxpayer funding is provided to fight the local taxpayers. I believe that these cases, as related to water rights, should be filed in the Federal Courts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. Citizen says:

    I see now that the Tribune has deleted the statement it originally made that one law suit was against Paso Robles, Templeton, San Miguel and Atascadero (cities/water districts). It will be interesting to see if that original statement was just a mistake. Hopefully, the County will release a copy of the law suit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. Citizen says:

    So, according to the Tribune, Cindy Steinbeck is involved in both lawsuits. One of the lawsuits is naming Paso Robles as a defendent and Ed Steinbeck, Cindy’s father and business partner, is a Paso City Council member.

    Does anyone see a problem here?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

    • FineWine says:

      As of now the only thing being discussed is the water districts and the moratorium only affects the county. Therefore your theory holds zero merit because the moratorium helps the city by driving business to it where they do not have a moratorium.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

      • Citizen says:

        Actually, my only “theory” was “can a city council member sue the city and sit on the council at the same time”. Since the Tribune withdrew the original statement of defendants (updated the story), we can’t tell if the cities/water districts are being sued along with the county or not.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    • lee says:

      I don’t believe that Ed is Cindy’s father. Best to check facts before making claims.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  7. FineWine says:

    Finally, the law was badly written with zero facts to back up the overdraft theory.
    The county should have researched before they decided to steal everyone’s
    property rights. Mecham you should be ashamed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 10

    • 1inthemiddle says:

      Haha, that is funny. To suggest that the basin studies represent no basis for decision is absurd. Again, one needs to understand that this is not a forever law, but an emergency ordinance with a non extendable sunset date designex to allow for a full gathering of data. No ones rights have been taken and every land owner can continue to develop. The limited ordinance simple requires an offset so that while the issues are studied the problem, if there is one, does not grow

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

      • FineWine says:

        There have not been ayn third party studies period just a county map that says nothing. When you buy a piece of property you are buying the bundle of rights that goes with the property. When you cannot do what you want with your water you have lost a piece of your ownership! ( Without compensation)

        The offset clause which is vague at best can be interpreted anyway the county wants. If you could truly offset you would not need the water in the first place. It was a poorly written law.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

        • 1inthemiddle says:

          Again, it’s a temporary act intended to allow time to properly ascertain the state of the basin. You may think there is a debate to be had about the validity of the evidence but there is certainly enough gaining back years to cause concern. The ordinance only pauses unlimited drains on the basin.
          You are correct in saying the offset program is not developed yet. The county staff has been taxes with refining this and the most recent vote on vesting pretty much protects previous investments.
          You correct in suggesting that if people/businesses chose to offset, there would not be an issue. Sadly, the choice of many seems to be expansion without any consideration of impacts. That is the very heart of why the emergency ordinance was enacted.
          While water rights law is very complex it is my understanding that the right you get with land purchase allows for access to water not unlimited consumption to the detriment of other users of the same shared resource.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  8. 1inthemiddle says:

    Well that guarantees that we will not have a local solution. This will effectively force adjudication. Now after lots of time and millions if wasted dollars, we will have the state force a solution on the county.
    Instead of allowing local government in conjunction with community stakeholders to find a solution locally, now Sacramento gets to decide. What a short sighted moved to invite big government in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

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