Water bankers purchase Paso Robles’ Hardham Ranch

July 15, 2013
Stewart and Lynda Resnick

Stewart and Lynda Resnick

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

One of the nation’s most controversial and wealthiest farm operators has quietly acquired a sprawling 742-acre parcel of prime ranch and agricultural property adjacent to the southeast edge of the Paso Robles city limits — causing some locals to question the objective.

Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of agribusiness giant Paramount Farms Inc., FIJI Water, Justin Winery, and other high-profile business entities, bought the Hardham Ranch in late 2012. Paramount’s farming activities have been criticized because of a corporate propensity to appropriate regional water supplies.

County records show the property has been deeded to Roll Vineyards LLC, a newly-formed subsidiary of Roll Global, the Resnick’s holding company.

Pete Clark, a Paso Robles Realtor specializing in ranch properties, handled the sale for the heirs of longtime North County resident and botanist Clare Hardham, who died Sept. 3, 2010, at the age of 92. The property, which historically has been used for dry-farming and cattle grazing, was listed for $8.5 million.

Clark declined to confirm the property’ s sales price and referred a reporter to local Realtor Hugh Pitts, who represented the Resnicks in the sale. Pitts did not return numerous phone calls from CalCoastNews.

Several sources said the property most likely will be converted into vineyards, but media spokespersons and other officials of Roll Global did not respond to queries about the land’s planned use.

A Paso Robles city water official, during a not-for-attribution conversation, observed that the purchase is representative of most other local agricultural property acquisitions in recent years: “Other people develop the wine industry into what it is today, and then the big guys come in and take over.”

The Resnick’s primary entity, Paramount Farms, claims one of  the biggest farm holdings in California, producing and marketing almonds, pistachios, oranges and pomegranates — activities that are making them immensely rich.

Bloomberg’s Businessweek described the Resnicks as “quintessential Beverly Hills billionaires, with a sumptuous mansion and a new $54 million pavilion named after them at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.”

What sets the Resnicks apart from their neighbors, however, are their sprawling farm holdings — 188 square miles, 125,000 acres — of fertile Central California land, a parcel four times the size of San Francisco.

While those vast acreage holdings may be the source of current revenues, it is the resources under the land that hold the promise of future fortune.

Paramount is the primary participant in the Central Valley’s unique “water bank,” the “biggest in America, if not the world,” according to Businessweek: “It occupies 32 square miles in Kern County, making it larger than Hollywood and Beverly Hills combined; it extends across the main highways that run through the San Joaquin Valley and alongside the California aqueduct.

“The bank itself is a network of 70 man-made ponds, a six-mile-long canal, and 33 miles of pipeline that captures rain and snow-melt from the Sierra Nevada range and can be fed by water purchased from the federal and state governments as well as local sources.”

In 2007, prior to three straight dry years, the bank held 1.5 million acre-feet of water, creating a stranglehold on the historically-dry region’s most treasured resource.

A wave of lawsuits challenging the legality of the water bank and asserting huge environmental damages have been launched by two water agencies and three environmental groups.

A 2011 research project by Grace Communications Foundation, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, noted that the Kern Water Bank “was established under particularly sketchy circumstances, and is no stranger to lawsuits ever since the Resnicks – through Paramount Farms – began buying up area land and water rights ‘Chinatown-style’ in the 1980s-90s. After Roll claimed these water rights with the land purchases, they and other wealthy landowners created the water bank using public funds, giving them unlimited withdrawals and the ability to resell water for big profits, neglecting nearby residents without clean water access in the process.”

The Resnicks also own a bottled water company called FIJI Water, which has encountered its own share of controversy. The so-called “luxury water brand” has been accused of exporting so much water from a Fijian water aquifer that the island’s residents are left with no source of fresh water.

When the Fiji government wanted to impose a higher tax, Roll Global shut down operations in November 2010 in protest. The shutdown lasted only a few days — until Roll Global executives and Fiji government representatives were able to reach agreement on future relations.

Roll purchased Justin Winery in late 2010 and the Hardham Ranch a year later.

Hardham Ranch  is located at 4485 Creston Road, midway between Templeton and Creston. It is surrounded on three sides by vineyards and grazing land, and is bordered by three county roads. It is zoned agriculture and is under Williamson Act contract, according to Clark’s description of the property. It has three residential structures, two barns, shops, storage sheds, and a corral.

An historic barn built around 1910 also is located on the property.

The ranch was acquired by the Butterworth family in the late 1940s, and has been family-owned and operated until now.


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peggy sue

Our whole government system is set up to allow the elite to acquire any and all they want. This fact exists for wealthy individuals, as well as wealthy corporations. The world is theirs. But this world is impermanent and remember this: “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to get to heaven”. In other words, the elite have a choice. They can dwell in greed and keep it all for themselves or they also have the choice of sharing with others. Greed is an ugly thing; it allows the conscience to take a break (although hopefully, not permanently or that would indicate sociopathy). It allows one to see the pain of others’ suffering and turn a blind eye. The disease of affluenza.


I try to just live a modest life and do the right thing. In the bigger picture, we are here on this planet to help one another and be stewards of the earth. Unless we are willing to become a large body of people who overcome and change the laws that govern the way wealth is distributed, we are going to have to take care of one another with the resources that are left over (after taxes & after we pay for the water bill, gasoline+more taxes, cable tv, bandwith usage, etc.,). Piece of cake-this has been going on forever on the planet…the rich rulers and the peasant working class…..


godislanguage

Your admirable, but nothing new under the sun, and Utopia doesn’t exist.


Scripture also warns us about judging the speck in our sister’s eye, when we may have a log in our own eye. Envy is another one of those deadly sins, especially when painting in broad strokes.


Mr. Holly

I’m a little low on cash would you share some of yours with me?


Pelican1

All together now…..

Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya

Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya

Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbaya


Someone’s singing Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s singing Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s singing Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbayah


Someone’s laughing, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s laughing, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s laughing, Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbaya


Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbaya


Someone’s praying, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s praying, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s praying, Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbaya


Someone’s sleeping, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s sleeping, Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s sleeping, Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbaya

Oh Lord, kumbaya


WiserGuy

That’s a beautiful song. Thank you!


obispan

“Dwell in greed” is going to be my new screen name :)


Pelican1

This is another Milagro Beanfield War.


hijinks2

So, people are upset that a self-made billionaire bought a ranch. By the way, most of the vines are in. And people are speculating that he bought the ranch to bank water and he may sell the water at some future date to the highest bidder. Now how is this any different than the fact that the City of San Luis Obispo has 11 years of water banked for a community of roughly 44,000? This is roughly 22,000 acre feet of water per year based upon another posters blog. The City of San Luis Obispo draws nearly 100% of its water from the North County, just like Los Angeles to serve the masses. If you are worried about water then and the Salinas underflow then push for the decommissioning of the Santa Margarita Dam. That water used to replenish the Salinas underflow, but is now used to subsidize the City of San Luis Obispo


Mr. Holly

Selling to the highest bidder? Isn’t that exactly what the municipal water companies and government is currently do to us as they raise the water rates but never seem to “create” a increased supply of water.


Citizen

Very good point, hijinks2, and this idea of a city sitting on water rights while others lack water has come up in Kern County and elsewhere. There is something in the court system right now.


mkaney

I don’t think you are looking at all the facts.. such as “created the water bank using public funds.” That is not SELF made, my friend.


obispan

“That water used to flow into the Pacific Ocean” would be more accurate. You obviously being from the North County, are unfamiliar with water management. Salinas Dam releases all incoming volume until there is a live stream in Paso, which means the water is percolating at maximum rate. The dam has nothing to do with the aquifer. Derive your hatred of San Luis Obispo elsewhere. The North County could try to take over the facility but it’s not water stolen from the North County. In fact, if you had ANY brains at all you would support installation of the gates with the additional water held for release into the aquifer (you pay for the gates). I’m guessing this finally gets looked at with the poop hitting the fan. Collectively, “we” need to pick up the remaining Nacimiento water, gate Salinas Dam, divide it all up and in the end we’ll know exactly what we’ve got to work with. Development will continue as rules are developed for zero landscaping, composting toilets and everyone smelling like a goat…unless you’re one of rich developers. Developers claim to despise government. Believe me, they love government. Government can make other people pay for the infrastructure costs of their development!


hijinks2

Obispan,


Interesting rant to say the least, but the water is in North County. Maybe you can look at map once in a while. Based upon your premise, all the water flowed to the ocean, more than 150 miles away to its final discharge point into an ASBS. So, “the water flowed into the Pacific Ocean” suggest that none of it percolated into the GWA or Salinas undertoe or anywhere else for that matter. The only reason that the so-called “water management of the Salinas Dam” exist is because of down stream water rights dating back to roughly 1863. Apparently, you are part of that entitlement group in SLO town. Water banking as some of the posters have noted is at dispute in the courts right now, however, water is a mineral, just like oil. You can own it, bank it , and then sell it – it’s called capitalism. However, agencies are not allowed to bank water at the detriment of other agencies or individuals, even the California State Supreme Court has ruled on that issue. In fact, this issue has been in the Colorado Courts and nationally as well. The point of the post was to awaken readers to a significant issue. The Salinas River historically flowed up to 8 months a year prior to the installation of the dam which is evident in many photographs of Paso Robles in the late 1800’s.


I own my water rights and will irrigate the vineyard, horse pastures, lush landscape and all. However, I am not monopolizing a commodity at the detriment of others. I am not hording it at the detriment of those down stream – hmmm this seems like the making of a lawsuit of north county property owners, the Salinas valley property owners and ag industry against the city of slo. I wonder who would win that lawsuit based upon case precedent?


MaryMalone

It seems to me you and the City of SLO are using the same argument for the ways in which you use water, knowing full well that the Paso groundwater basin is in lickity-split overdraft and many old-time residences in north county are in dire straits because they cannot afford to drill as deep as the vineyards do…


“I got mine, who cares about you, and it doesn’t matter what is right for the community…the law says I can do it, so I’m going to do it.”


As Sun Tzu said, “When you become like your enemy, your enemy has won.”


obispan

“Late 1800’s”, “prior to installation of the dam”? Also prior to you irrigating your vineyard. Who are you? Debbie Arnold? SLO liberals to blame for all your problems? Water shortage caused by Obamacare?


Russ J

These types are all about the bottom line. I wonder how much subsidy this agribusiness baron has accumulated over his life. I’m sure he employs a huge number of people and that’s a good thing but so do small family ranches. Is he one of the dudes crying to congress about how he can’t find 10$/hour labor? Workers that need public assistance, child care and health services after they arrive from another country. Water is $ and he’s bought o’plenty of it – bend over Joe consumer. This is just another way the super wealthy are having their way with you.


obispan

Illegal immigration is good. It depresses wages, kills unions, burdens government and boosts profits, basically a Republican’s wet dream.


Russ J

Then why are some republicans the only ones who want to prevent it? All the lefties in the senate want the borders wide open. Why are the unions so quiet about the Obama/McCain/Bush/Pelosi amnesty plan and not concerned about building a REAL fence?


racket

If the City of PR wanted to preserve those water rights for their future use, or get into the water banking business themselves, they could have bought the ranch (and its water).


They didn’t.


And now they’re sad.


If Paso lived within its water budget (calculated by the amount of rainwater they can capture/store) within their city limits), they would not be demanding water that belongs to neighboring agriculturists.


cooperdog

Seems like your logic should apply to agriculturists too – ag irrigation should limited to the amount of rainwater that a property owner can capture/store on his/her property. We all need to live within a water budget when the resource is limited.


racket

Absolutely.


WiserGuy

Racket, you simply do not understand how water rights work. Agriculturists do not “own” the water that flows through their property or under their property. Having land above an aquifer does not give one exclusive rights to the water in that aquifer.


You also seem to have no appreciation for the moral and practical implications of the viewpoints you spew. Always falling back on the cliche of “market forces” to try to bolster your arguments shows an extremely narrow and impractical stance and a lack of appreciation for the concepts of society, community and nation.


racket

Ad hominem much?


An average California family uses something like .5 acre feet of water annually. An average acre of Paso Robles receives about 1.5 acre/feet of rain per year.


IF the families could retain and store 100% of the rain that fell on their land; a sustainable density of average families would be three per acre. Any time families live more densely than 3 per acre, then need to get there water from someone else’s collection of water. That these families are not living within their water means should not negatively effect their neighbors.


Obviously, this does not account for the inefficiencies of water collection and storage, nor does it “leave” any water for trees or fish.


Paso uses too much water. Paso needs to import water. But their need for water should not trump the beneficial owners of the water. It’s the tyranny of the majority, as it always is.


pasoparent5

FYI The property mentioned in this article isn’t even located in Paso.


racket

Ergo, Paso should have absolutely no “say” in these people’s use of their water.


WiserGuy

I used no “ad hominem” argument, Racket.


Your efforts to lard your argument with irrelevant math is equally off the mark and is a shaky foundation for your stance that a single individual should be able to buy the unilateral right to deprive untold numbers of people the essence of life.


A society, if it is to remain a society that affords all its citizens equal right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, must find it imperative to manage water supplies in a way that puts the interests of the community as a whole above the selfish interests of any individual.


As I have stated elsewhere, for a community to remain healthful and viable and not descend into despotism and permanent strife, no individual has the absolute inalienable right to forever control a community’s water supply simply because a portion of that water runs across or under land he owns.


kettle

WiserGuy says:”I used no “ad hominem” argument, Racket.”


Bullshit


WiserGuy says:”Racket, you simply do not understand”

“You also seem to have no appreciation for the moral and practical implications of the viewpoints you spew.”

“shows an extremely narrow and impractical stance and a lack of appreciation”

” to lard your argument with irrelevant math is equally off the mark and is a shaky foundation for your stance:”


“ad hominem

You attacked your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.”


“appeal to emotion

You attempted to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument.”


notso-wiserguy your opinion is not fact and yes you did.


MaryMalone

I think they are ad hominem arguments because WiserGuy didn’t give any supporting evidence for each of his arguments.


If WiserGuy believes, as he states, “You also seem to have no appreciation for the moral and practical implications of the viewpoints you spew,” he should be able to support that declaration. What makes him think that? Which moral and practical implications is he referencing?


I think the term “spew” is just his style of opinionating when he believes passionately about an issue. I don’t see that as an “ad hominem.”


Citizen

Paso already has wells into the aquifer. They can drill more wells if they want. Why would they need a county location to get to the same water? The city isn’t demanding water from the aquifer under other people’s land. But I do think a toll charge for using our city streets and roads would be appropriate for you freeloaders.


MaryMalone

It would give the city water rights it does not now have, which would benefit the city’s water users.


It would also give them legal standing to approach the courts should any detriment to the water in the basin be contaminated or taken illegally (i.e., a neighbor do slant drilling into the aquifer below the piece of property in question).


Jeanne Blackwell

This is very troubling on many levels but in particular the water issue. I think it might be important to mention a basic fundamental fact about water rights. This fact from California Water Rights Primer http://www.c-win.org/water-rights-primer.html “To mobilize water for human use, our society grants property rights to USE water. No one is allowed to hoard or possess it because of its intrinsic properties and its necessity to all life and economic activity. The rights to use water also carry obligations to other water right holders, particularly not to harm the rights of other water right holders and not to harm the environment.”


This site mentions how the whole Water Bank issue came into being and a particularly pertinent article called Paper Water.


Kern County is also currently in the midst of legal battles over contaminated ground water from Fracking. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b43Wzk6RQ4Y. For unexplained reasons the audio goes dead after 19 minutes. It was a technical problem their end.


It might also be of interest to know that Mount Shasta was faced with the same dilemma regarding water extraction of their precious water by the Nestle corporation for purposes of building a water bottling plant. http://www.globalexchange.org/communityrights/rbo/shasta. Things got very ugly and very nasty very quickly as is usually the case when we are dealing with mega corporations who have what one might regard as an unlimited amount of financial resources and political connections to wage what could only be described as an unfair, undue advantage and influence over the whole process.


I might just add here that where it is true that dollar for dollar local communities are always at a disadvantage in these kinds of situations, there is something that has worked and has shown to be very effective and puts the money principle at a distinct disadvantage. I say distinct disadvantage because there is an area of the law that does not recognize money as having any rights. And we know it to be a fact that money is the sole and entire persona of a corporation and without it they would cease to exist.


The area of the law that is beyond the reach of monied corporations and is something that all the money in the world can not buy them is the basic fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence.


150 other communities across the United States incorporated this basic fundamental right into their local ordinances and successfully banned fracking, gmo’s, spreading of toxic sludge and 5 communities wanting to protect their right to life as only water can provide enacted the Water Usage Ordinance which requires any new, corporate, large users of water supplies within a local jurisdiction to prepare a Water Impact Study to show that industrial and commercial use of water will not have an adverse impact on groundwater supplies.


Just saying folks California’s history is steeped in water wars. And with the newest addition of Paramount Farms ready willing and able to unleash all the legal and political powers that be upon this community for the sole intent and purpose of profit taking at the expense of our natural, limited, non renewable precious and priceless water we do have a choice.


We can fight them on their terms which is a stacked deck and which will take more money than we have and many lives will be lost in the process and they will eventually win because they have more money. Or we can take this to a new level. We can start with a clean slate, leave all the historical water war baggage behind and introduce a new weapon against tyranny and corporate bullying.


Here’s an ordinance that 5 communities put into law and it saved their water. And believe it or not no body died in the process. It’s an old war we just have a new weapon to fight it with. Rights based law. This is the language http://www.celdf.org/article.php?id=770 and CELDF and Global Exchange will help you write it. That’s what they do.


Again, we have a choice. We can do it the old way and get beat up in the process or we can do it a new way and win for a change. Any way you look at it it is war because it is about a community protecting, preserving the water for ourselves and future generations and Paramount is about taking the water for themselves and no one else.


We need to settle this right now and once and for all. Who’s water is it? Who decides?


Jorge Estrada

This is the most PRACTICAL and TRUTHFUL answer you’ll ever get is, “The person who has the most money to spend on ajudication.”


If you want to remove the obvious violations first, form a large group that will systematically hike the Salinas River and it’s tributaries, south of Paso Robles and report on all the illegal dams or diversions. The State of California Fish and Game Department should do this but they can’t afford to do all of their job, remember enforcement comes with a cost and their budget seems to only afford the protection of their hunting tag industry.


obispan

“Who decides?” I’ll tell you who, the judge. Our Tea Party North County supervisors are going to deny this like global warming. For 30 years we’ve been told, “just a couple of good years, well levels go up and down”, but the overall basin never questioned. The sellers of the ranch probably wanted to get top dollar while they could and the best buyer someone experienced in water wars. Lawyer-up!


WiserGuy

This scheme is not much different than buying the rights to the rain and the air and then selling both back to the people.


Water supplies must be managed to maximize the benefits to the society as a whole and NOT to provide profits to a few at the unfair expense and suffering of the majority.


obispan

Socialist.


Jorge Estrada

People have always said that water will be worth more than oil. Sounds like these folks have listened and got off their butts. Not rocket science, Water Wealth 101 for dummies and not just for Cities, Counties or States.


mbactivist1

This is a very important story about something that is happening all over the world. Investors everywhere are being urged to “profit” from the world’s water crisis. Water is being described as “the new oil”. There are articles on this in numerous publications. Just enter “profit from water shortage” in the search terms box and see what pops up.


We need to bring any such schemes here to a screeching halt. We also need to work toward sustainable water supplies by reclaiming water for re-use.


racket

Wealth envy?


We, the other 99.9%, have fouled up our water supplies (with the bumbleage of our governments).


They, the Resnicks, have stumbled upon a way to bring order to water supply chaos, using market forces.


I agree we need to work toward sustainable water supplies. The rest is “sour grapes” (pun intended).


mbactivist1

Bring order to “water supply chaos” by monopolizing supplies and charging people exorbitant rates for a “commodity” necessary to sustain life? Bring order by depleting the water supply of an entire small nation (Fiji), leaving its people without a reliable, sustainable supply, in order to sell their water elsewhere for a big profit? That’s comparable to buying up the entire supply of some critical, life-saving medicine and then charging a hundred dollars a pill. It’s greed at its ugliest.


Do your research. You might start by reading the book, “Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of our Water” Check that out, get educated on the subject, and THEN comment.


racket

Did the Fijians sell those water rights to Resnick?


mbactivist1

Evasive answer.


WiserGuy

One doesn’t need to be envious to understand and appreciate the moral and practical problems with this type of water “banking” scheme and how it harms out community and nation and deprives people of natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.