Creston group denied water advisory seat
June 30, 2014
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
An influential Creston community organization has been excluded from a county advisory group whose eventual findings will help shape the future of the hotly-contested Paso Robles water basin.
The Creston Advisory Board last week asked for a seat on the panel, the Paso Robles Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee (PRGRAC), but the effort was spurned, said CAB chair Sheila Lyons.
The advisory committee was formed by San Luis Obispo County supervisors and is an extension of an earlier “blue ribbon” group. It has several objectives, according to its mission statement, including contributing to “development of an enhanced Basin Groundwater Management Plan” and “formation of a new water district.”
Supervisors had previously denied CAB a place on the advisory panel, telling Lyons to take the matter directly to the current PRGRAC membership — 26 strong — for a decision. But after CAB proposed that Dale Tozzi be empaneled to represent the rural group, with Maria Lorca as her alternate, the request was voted down, 14-7.
“We were told we could come to their meetings and speak during public comment session,” Lyons said.
She noted that “CAB is one of the two largest community action committees over the Paso Robles basin, the only one whose residents are one hundred percent dependent on their own private wells. It represent owners of 80,000 acres and several thousand residents.
Lyons said that her group “should have representation due to the extent to which our residents will be affected by the recommendations made by this committee. CAB residents have a direct stake in the outcome.”
The water basin has been the subject of years-long discussions as its contents are plumbed ever deeper to satisfy accelerating growth of agriculture, primarily wine grapes. A body comprised primarily of vintners and large landowners has been pushing an effort to form a water district to manage the basin.
That endeavor has culminated in a hotly-contested legislative proposal carried by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), AB 2543, which has been amended by the California Senate from its original form and now heads for ratification in the lower house. If the bill is to pass, it must do so by Aug. 31, the current session deadline.
Amendments to that bill include removing the landownership requirement for the three at-large seats; requiring that the petition and formation vote be based on one landowner, one vote; and ensure the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission ( LAFCo) has the ability to review powers and authorities granted by existing state law.