Two lawsuits challenge Paso Roble water ordinance
November 26, 2013
Two 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Network, an association of landowners within the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, is seeking to have the ordinance rescinded because the SLO County Board of Supervisors “abused its discretion and failed to proceed in a manner prescribed by law when adopting the ‘urgency’ ordinance,”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.