Supervisors waffle on support for Paso Robles water bill
July 8, 2014
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A heavily-amended legislative proposal to create a “hybrid” water district for controlling the Paso Robles water basin no longer has support from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors following a circuitous, often testy discussion by the panel Tuesday.
An effort by Chairman Bruce Gibson to place an analysis of those amendments and further public comment on Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian’s bill on a future agenda failed. Supervisors Frank Mecham, Debbie Arnold and Adam Hill voted against Gibson’s motion.
Supervisor Caren Ray sided with Gibson in his attempt to maintain control of the North County’s water issue.
Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) said he plans to continue carrying the bill, AB 2453, and work to incorporate a host of new amendments attached by the Senate.
By their action in declining to maintain an active role in the bill’s metamorphosis, supervisors have chosen to wait and watch as the proposal moves through the legislative process.
At the same time, supervisors Mecham and Arnold, who represent the entire population of the proposed water district, have taken control of the water issue and will meet privately with Achadjian to determine the bill’s future.
Mecham said he thinks supervisors need to know more about the bill’s amended form “before we talk about it any more.”
The matter became fodder for supervisors’ discussion after a member of a water district advocacy group suggested Mecham and Arnold were responsible for derailing AB 2453 with the added amendment burden.
Bob Brown, a member of the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), told the board his group withdrew its support for AB 2453, something that “was not done lightly.” PRAAGS is comprised primarily of large wine grape growers and ranching interests.
Another group calling itself PRO Water Equity also withdrew the support of its four members.
Arnold responded to Brown’s assertions by noting that she supports the notion of a water district to manage the Paso basin, but she said she wanted “from the very beginning of all this for the people affected to have a voice, and now they do.” Arnold repeated her concern that in the original proposal by PRAAGS, a proposed district enveloping 5,000 landowners could be formed and controlled by only 30 large landowners — many of whom do not even live in the county.
Mecham made it clear that he believes continuing discussions of a water district formation would prove useless until supervisors have a better comprehension of the amended bill.
Hill — who with Gibson had been leading proponents of PRAAGS’s original bill language — said “it appears this one has hit the skids.”
So, for the present, county staff has been instructed not to spend a minute trying to translate Achadjian’s evolving bill. Also, supervisors have suspended their support of the proposal, support which Achadjian has called critical for his bill’s survival.