Mecham says Paso Robles water district dead
March 6, 2014
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A controversial water district proposal sponsored by a group of vintners and ranchers and intended to manage the Paso Robles aquifer probably will not pass constitutional muster, and its primary backer said he is “disheartened.”
“It looks like it’s dead,” said First District Supervisor Frank Mecham about the district plan upon his return from Sacramento, where he discussed the proposed district with Sen. Bill Monning, (D-Carmel), Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) and staff members.
“I wish we’d heard about this problem earlier,” he added.
Mecham said the county contingent was told that legislation introduced recently by Achadjian appears to be in conflict with the state constitution. The most apparent issue, said the lawmakers, was the makeup of the governing board. The supervisor was accompanied by San Luis Obispo County Administrator Dan Buckshi and Public Works Director Paavo Ogren.
“We wanted to find out if this thing (the formation plan) was going anywhere,” said Mecham, “and what we heard was that ‘there might be some issues here.’”
Monning told the county group that they “may have hit a brick wall here,” Mecham said.
The proposed bill will be examined by the Office of Legislative Counsel, which Mecham said will then “offer an opinion.” That might take several months, he added.
Monning told the group that as the plan was examined in Sacramento, the concept for formation of the district’s governing body raised “red flags.”
Meacham suggested the county group was “blindsided” by the news.
“I’m not very optimistic that this is going to move,” said Mecham, who first expressed his concerns on KPRL Radio Thursday afternoon. He said he was taken off guard by the lawmakers’ assertions.
“This wasn’t my deal, I just tried to bring folks together on this,” Mecham said. He told members of two local groups who had been supporting the district formation plan about the potential problems Thursday morning.
Jerry Reaugh, chairman of the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), did not return a phone call from CalCoastNews. His group has been planning the district since last summer.
The second advocacy group, PRO Water Equity (PWE), issued a statement late Thursday: “Initial feedback from our legislators makes it evident that special legislation to create a hybrid board of directors faces significant scrutiny in Sacramento. The new petition for a water district will not be filed with LAFCO until the bill has been fully vetted by Legislative Counsel and we have greater clarity on how best to move forward.”
Updated Friday at 8:40 a.m. to incorporate comments by PRO Water Equity.
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