Open letter to Senator Monning,
June 12, 2014
OPINION by LARRY and SUE MCGOURTY
We are firmly against the formation of an “involuntary inclusion” Paso Robles Water District of any sort.
First, it has not been demonstrated that an all-encompassing water district is either necessary or desirable. There is no incontrovertible scientific evidence that a long term basin-wide overdraft even exists. Recent studies indicate the trouble spots are local depressions centered around areas of high volume pumping by municipal purveyors and large vineyard irrigators. It is not a basin-wide problem.
Second, this particular bill, AB2453, is especially egregious because the proposed voting structure effectively disenfranchises the small parcel owners and subjects their constitutionally guaranteed overlying rights to the political whims of a small politically powerful group of people and corporations with serious economic conflicts of interest.
This proposed voting structure is not the result of a true grass-root effort. It has been amply documented that the self-appointed ProWaterEquity negotiating team acted against the express direction of its own board. In fact, a majority of the ProWaterEquity board resigned because of the rogue actions of its negotiator, Sue Luft. What remains of ProWaterEquity represents no one in the basin except itself. The “grand compromise” is a sham.
Third, to the extent that a groundwater overdraft exists in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, the small parcel owners did not create it, they are not sustaining it, and effectively curtailing their water rights will not alleviate it.
Fourth, where areas may be under stress in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, they are created by the drought, and are sustained by the large irrigators and municipal purveyors. Putting the very people who are sustaining the problem in de-jure control of the basin is not a rational solution.
Fifth, this particular bill proposes no solutions. There is “no there there.” We suspect that at its heart it is another crony capitalism tax grab by the large vineyard irrigators and municipal purveyors to socialize the costs of the failure of their risky development.
Finally, The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin sustains a very large and a very diverse economy. Putting control of its groundwater, the one vital resource that enables the economy, into the hands of any one single group is a prescription for disaster, for therein lies the true danger of this legislation. The wine industry that would be masters of the basin barely existed in the Paso Robles Basin 30 years ago. It was only through unfettered access to land and water that it grew and thrived. Where would the wine industry be today if the dominant cattle and grain operations of that period had assumed control of the basin?
The proper tool for basin-wide management is adjudication. Only adjudication will protect the basin and preserve the rights of all landowners.
Larry and Sue McGourty
Larry and Sue McGourty enjoy living and farming in Paso Robles.