POWR IS “belligerent” defending North County

February 17, 2014
Cindy Steinbeck

Cindy Steinbeck

PRAAGS/PWE chose the word “belligerent” in a recent Op Ed to describe the efforts of our Protect Our Water Rights [POWR] group. This is an appropriate choice of words as “belligerent” means, “having a war-like attitude.”

POWR is defending all of North County by protecting our individual property rights. We are fired up, because we are under attack; we are being asked to trust those who are attempting to create a water district in order to export our water to Kern and make us pay for it. Call me belligerent, but I will not stand by and watch this happen without a fight.

PRAAGS/PWE argues that POWR is not “negotiating.” This is not about negotiating; the real issue is that PRAAGS/PWE has a fundamentally different idea of basin management than POWR. For example, one of PRAAGS/PWE’s “solutions” is to create an export district that takes away landowner rights and exports our water. This “solution” is not in PRGWB’s best interest, so there really is nothing to “negotiate”.

Thursday I spoke to the San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s association. Steve Sinton, PRAAGS board member and water attorney, also spoke. He stated that PRAAGS/PWE is “not interested in banking” but he said they are interested in “exporting surplus water, from the Paso Robles basin to the Kern Water Bank, to store for use in our basin during droughts.” On Tuesday Jerry Reaugh said, “No export – it’s a silly conspiracy theory.” Two days later Steve Sinton said, “Export and store in Kern.”

PRAAGS will creatively argue that it is somehow in North County’s best interest to “store” our water in Kern. Strong evidence points to the contrary.

Kern County has systematically created its own disaster area by mismanaging their own water source. Kern has allowed private entrepreneurs to profit by selling “unregulated” allocations of State Water Project water that they “banked” in their basin. Their water basin is being destroyed. One such entity that “banks” State Water Project allocations in Kern County is Eastern Municipal Water District [EMWD]. Kern County is in such a dire crisis right now that an acre foot of water was auctioned off last week for over $1,300.000. Let’s be logical, do we really want Kern County storing any of our water when they cannot even seem to manage their own? I don’t think so.

Steve Sinton failed to tell the Cattlemen that under California water law any “surplus” water is for the purveyors in the Paso Roble Groundwater Basin [PRGWB]. The PRAAGS proposal turns California law upside down. A purveyor’s right to “surplus” water is based on length of time that the purveyor has been pumping – therefore the City of Paso Robles has a higher priority of right to any “surplus” water in the PRGWB than any newly formed District. The proposed district would have the absolute lowest priority of water rights of any entity in North County and would possess all the powers given districts by state law. If this district forms it will be able to “export” water from our basin thereby harming everyone in North County who relies upon the PRGWB. Do we want the lowest water right holder having the ability to “export” our water to Kern? I don’t think so.

Mr. Wayne Lemieux, who coincidentally also represents EMWD, sent out an email statement trying to dissuade property owners above the PRGWB from protecting their water rights. He stated that the overliers in Santa Maria who fought for their water rights “lost.” This is not true. I have spent countless hours visiting with landowners who were a part of the Santa Maria adjudication and they had their water rights affirmed by the court. My question is why Mr. Lemieux, who represents the interests of EMWD, trying to dissuade overlying landowners from protecting their rights? What interest does EMWD have in our basin?

Basin management by adjudication is the only “solution” for our basin. Take, for example, the Santa Maria basin. It is managed by the court and is healthy. On the contrary, Kern County is managed by water districts and is a clear showing of district management run amok.

POWR has the highest regard for our beautiful communities in the North County as well as all landowners over the basin. We have the health of the Paso Robles Groundwater basin and protecting our property rights as our highest goal. Adjudication is the proper tool to protect our basin and our rights. Even PWE was founded with that course of action as the best management too. I’ve met hundreds of like-minded people over the last months and I’ve come to the conclusion that being belligerent is necessary to protect our basin. Thanks PRAAGS/PWE you hit the nail on the head.

On February 18th 9:00am the Board of Supervisors is voting on VERY important matters regarding the proposed water district and the future of our groundwater basin. Board of Supervisors agenda February 18

Cindy Steinbeck, a fifth generation landowner, is president of Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, is a founding member of the Protect Our Water Rights group (POWR) which filed Quiet Title in November. Adjudication is the proper basin-wide management tool. Adjudication protects the basin and property owners! Protect Your Water Rights.
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10 Comments

  1. despicableme says:

    PP5 you are right on the money…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. SLOBIRD says:

    Thank you, Cindy, for your continued pursue of doing the right thing for the “local” folks and not the big corporations. I admire your fortitude and righteousness.

    I certainly don’t mine sharing our resources but this takeover is not sharing. Any small property owner is definitely going to get screwed. There is no doubt that the BOS is going to approve this, they even donated money to PRAAGS for crying out load. I watched Frank Mecham at last Tuesday’s BOS and he is probably the biggest advocate behind this. He should not be reelected as he has joined forces with Gibson and Hill and has become so arrogant that he no longer represents us little people. He is now a SLO boy!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  3. HorseNutz says:

    Too little too late??? By your handle (Pasoparent) is this the type of apathy that you are setting as an example for your little ones? I doubt it… Fight for what is right while we have a chance, you can’t roll over and play dead.

    I am glad you are opposed to the Water District, you also mention that the residents of town are being restricted, they need to address that with the City Management. The Reuse and Recycle Program at the Wastewater facility has been a complete joke and in the midst of a $47M upgrade, they still are not utilizing the most up to date tertiary processes that would allow them to recycle to their maximum potential, but will still utilize Basin Pumped water to irrigate, etc.

    Conservation, recycle and reuse is where the focus ought to be. Adjudication will take us down that path. This is an issue for ALL landowners big and small, she is protecting all of us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    I can’t even finish reading this nonsense! Fact, per the State of California, “There is no unappropriated water in the Salinas River!” The discussion to appropriate water to another offsite location, even calling it a water bank, is simply stupidity. This discussion starts at the rain clouds, thence the water shed and streams, not in the middle of a river system.

    Allowing might to dictate what is right is a lawyer trick that is as old as the hills. If you allow this con to start, you will deffinately be right until proven broke.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

    • NCGuy says:

      Jorge, let this happen! In adjudication the City of Paso will have the opportunity to address their riparian water rights with respect to San Luis Obispo without it they will NOT DO IT …… this might give you insight into why there are SO MANY south county representatives in favor of this water district – it takes the heat off them and screws ALL OF us.

      The moment we overlying land owners fight Paso they then will fight the entity stealing water from them. This is what adjudication is for.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  5. LameCommenter says:

    Cindy, the Lemieux question is an easy one. I worked with him frequently in the 90’s and he’s truly a lawyer’s lawyer, wise and on point. However, you’ve got to remember he’s a true partisan also, he lived with the southern California judgments/adjudications constantly.This is what lawyers do, take sides. You really want someone with his grasp on the small landowners side, not on the other side.

    Paso Robles has the attention of the larger water community now and it’s going to be very difficult for land owners to sort out from the information as the big boys try to rush this all past the small landowners.

    The push is on. You can almost EXPECT your BOS to move the wrong direction tomorrow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    • NCGuy says:

      Lawyers take an OATH in the State of California. Mr Lemeiux has a GLARING conflict of interest – EMWD is Lemeiux’s client. EMWD “banks” their water in Kern County and there is NO MORE water in Kern County – it serves EMWD if PRGWB is set up as an “export” district. His “grasp” cannot be applied to the small landowners interests because he has the interests of EMWD to serve.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. pasoparent5 says:

    I don’t support the formation of a water district. I think there’s a lot of emotional hysteria driving PRAAGS…

    But it’s a fact that there ~are~ many more vineyards/wineries than in past decades and allthose North County vineyards/wineries are using a lot of water…a LOT!

    Paso is attempting to be the “new Napa” but fails to remember that we just don’t get the necessary rain! We’re a Mediterranean, DRY climate that doesn’t seem suited to plant millions of grape vines just to make an unnecessary commodity–wine. Yeah, millions of $$ are being pumped into the local economy but at what long-term cost?

    I agree that Ms. Steinbeck and other property owners have a right to pump a “reasonable”amount of water from under their land and of course I support private property rights but for too long the wineries have thumbed their noses at surrounding neighbors. They’ve builtnew facilities, expanded tasting rooms, planted vines and banked water all during severe drought times while the in-town residents have had to endure strict water restrictions for many years.

    Ms. Steinbeck does make some valid points and again–I don’t support a water district…but it may be “too little, too late.” If they were so concerned about water availability and preventing water banking and exporting, Ms. Steinbeck and the other POWR supporters should’ve spoken up years ago. The wineries have an image problem now that may be hard to overcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

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