A resident’s open letter to SLO County supervisors
August 10, 2013
OPINION By LEANN SEROKA
Dear Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Frank Mecham:
I have been following the water issue for a number of months now. My interest was piqued after receiving a letter. This letter was not addressed to me, but the previous owner. We have been receiving mail for this person since we bought the house in a foreclosure in fall of 2010.
After many attempts to get it fixed I said, “Forget it. If this is important mail they will soon miss it and fix it.”
But this letter was different. It was not from a bank or the part of the “junk” that comes to our mail boxes. The letter was about the water issue in our area. Now this piqued my concern because in the letter it said wells are going to be “monitored.”
Before I go on I want to tell you a little about my family. My husbands name is Dustin and I’m Leann Seroka. We are both from the Central Valley town of Clovis. In 2010 we married and I moved to Paso Robles to join my husband. Dustin works as a CHP officer north of Paso Robles.
Later that year we bought our first house. We had a tight budget and needed land for the two horses I owned. We bought out in the Ground Squirrel/ Forked Horn area. The house was new but the land it sat on was completely bare. The only thing we saved on the property was the perimeter fence.
Over the past three years our property improvement went like this: horse fencing and gates; concrete back patio and walkway; patio covering; round pen; garden fencing. And all the while fixing what the previous owner left broken.
We are both 26 now and will be caring for two children by the end of this year. To say the least we barely make it by some months. I grew up in the city. Never in my parents’ wildest dream would they have thought I would grow up to be where I am at now. That all changed when I fell head over heels for horses. I have learned how to care for a garden, raise my own meat, and make the most out of my land.
When we did our inspection of the property before buying it, we knew we had a deep well with good recovery time. I had not heard much of any problems until this letter arrived. To say the least I was angry. Here we are, on a two-acre piece of property that needed water to say the least.
Now we don’t have a lawn, let alone a irrigation system to water the newly-planted fruit from the past couple of years. Everything is done by hand — my hand. I look out my window and see the most beautiful picture a young adult could ask for. A swing on the front porch looking at a green landscape (provided by the vineyards) and the golden mountains, just north of the 46 east. Every beautiful day I thank the Lord for everything he has given me. I don’t know anyone as young as me that has what I look at everyday.
This reality of the watering issue angers me. I look at and drive past hundreds of acres of grapes everyday. They are beautiful, but I pray they are not the reason someday I might not be able to afford to live on my little slice of paradise. If my well goes dry, I don’t know where the money would even come from. We carry a house payment, two auto payments and many more expenses.
I wish my money could come from the ground but the truth is, it doesn’t. I’m due with our second child in six short weeks. I am a strong person and that stems from the “prove you wrong attitude” I developed competing in high school. It would break my heart to have to leave due to not being able to sustain our life here.
I don’t expect the city to provide me with water when my well goes dry. I purchased this property with a well and the knowledge that if it goes dry I have to fix it. Why should I have to worry about if I should flush a toilet or washing laundry? I live here. The owners of these vineyards more than likely have fountains, pools, and a huge lawn. It will never cross their minds that their vineyards are affecting their neighbors. They don’t have to see us everyday, or even wave. Why should they have to care what is going on? The water crisis will only start affecting them if they are monitored and fined when the allowed amount of water is exceeded for their needs, or the basin is gone.
The truth is vineyards have to come second to home owners. I have been following the debate and agree that grapes don’t use as much water as “traditional” crops. That’s right, they don’t. But I don’t see corn or alfalfa grown on the side of a hill. The truth is we are a smart generation. If we want to find a way we will. The available real estate that can’t be utilized by “traditional crops” can be vineyards.
What upsets me the most is that when it comes down to it, I won’t win. I don’t have the funds to get my family through a total dry spell. When I drive down my road into town I see new grape vines going in. Years down the road, they will still be there and the reality is I may not be. I want my two boys to be able to ride their horses down the road one day and still see the beautiful views I see now.
We live here. I want to be part of this future Paso Robles is creating. You, our supervisors, have been elected by me, us, the people of Paso Robles, to protect and serve us. My husband serves this state everyday as do many others. The reality is he may not come home one day.
As our elected officers, we depend on you to help the people who live here, not just the few that own the most land. My vote and my neighbors’ vote helped get you to where you are today. The community believes in you; don’t let us down or you might be replaced on the next go-around. You may not carry a gun to protect the people you serve, but we place our future in you hands. Be the strong people you were hired to be.