A resident’s open letter to SLO County supervisors

August 10, 2013


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.


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It’s a little unclear what Seroka means by “monitoring.”

If she means the government is going to “help” by recording her usage, she needs to start using all the water she can pump now, because at some point in the future the “monitoring” is apt to become the baseline for her allowed future usage.

That may not be true. In some instances, the “baseline” is based on what an “average” family uses for daily living…sans lawns and other “frills.”

Not to detract from the issue (which I think is both highly important and of serious need of discussion), but all I can manage to focus on in her letter is the whining of trying to maintain her lifestyle (acres of land, horses, multiple cars) on an officer’s salary (mean for CHP is about $80K/yr before overtime).

Maybe a little less melodrama would help us better focus on the issue at hand…

What would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic, is that Frank Mecham and Debbie Arnold like to wrap themselves in the cloak of capitalism and free markets. They need to realize that what is going on is the exact opposite of free market capitalism. It is much more in line with the practices in the old Soviet Union where the well-connected hoarded all the resources and the average citizen was left to wait in long lines for the possibility of buying a sack of potatoes at the store. Capitalism is based upon the purchase of products and paying the fair price for those products. The north county’s Union of Soviet Water Hoarders has no interest in this. I wonder if Frank and Debbie refer to each other as “Comrade” at the BOS meetings?

Unfortunately, the issues Leann is facing are the main reason I shy away from building on lots that do not have municipal water. Each situation is different, but there are many areas in overdraft besides the Paso basin. I wonder how California’s water laws are going to handle this?

Your husband may serve the state and its people but Arnold and Meacham do not. They serve the Resnicks. At least you are ahead of the rest by clearly reading the writing on the wall. My best to you and your family.

Lobbyist Mike Brown of COLAB, with help from sidekick Andy Caldwell, is doing his best to make sure as much of our water is available to be sucked up by the biggest corporations operating in SLO County. And you know what? Those corporations don’t even have to pay for the water they suck from OUR aquifer.

And so they are trying to suck it out as fast as possible before anyone might make them pay for it.. And in the meantime the price for water for our average citizen skyrockets. And Mike Brown, multi-millionair lobbyist, is doing his best to deliver all that free water to the companies that pay him the most. Ironically, he sucks the water and calls us suckers.

Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know it, Debbie Arnold meets with Mike Brown once a week, every week, so Mike Brown can tell her what to vote for and how to do other things to benefit Brown’s clients. This is a fact, that Brown fully and publicly admits. That’s how bold and brazen he is. And he’s that way because he has been getting away with so much for so long to the point he considers himself the most powerful member of the Board of Supervisors–even though he was never elected!

yep, the 5th Supervisor, or at least acting for Debbie. And now that PRAAGS says they own Debbie Arnold, and they’ve got COLAB, what chance does any normal person have. At least the land prices the vineyards can get our houses for will make it worth their while.

Doesn’t Debbie care what people think about her, or her decisions?

From June 2010 CCN Article-And Supes have done NOTHING! Mike Brown COLAB, Debbie and many of the PRAAG Group have one priority-Protect their wealth-control anything thats threatens that-What Now Tea Party rural residents that got whipped into a fearful frenzy about by COLAB about Govt coming for their water???? WHO IS REALLY SREALING THEIR WATER???

07/07/2010 at 2:46 pm

Seems to me, and I’m no engineer, that dozens of vineyards that pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every day out of the aquafir to keep the grapes growing (and Paso’s reputation as the “new” Napa valley)…would make water rather scarce for the rest of the north county.

Paso has failed its residents, and forcing them to suffer her foolishness

Funny how we’re surprised government fails it’s citizens, yet out of the other side of our mouths, many tout how the government must control and distribute things. Simply amazing.

rOy, water is a COMMUNITY resource, just like air. In order to prevent unnecessary death and mayhem, it makes perfect sense for communities to band together to work out an equitable system of distributing water. Doing things like this is what makes a SOCIETY. Humans are especially capable of this and without that type of cooperation humans barely rise above being brutes and animals. Humans are blessed, but some don’t appreciate this and remain more animalistic than human. Sad.

You better SELL before your well is completely dry because the wine industry isn’t going away. Even if there is a moritorium on new wineries and the drought continues you are still screwed.

Leann, if you did due diligence testing( any good realtor would do) and your well is over 650′ deep, you are probably safe for many years. This is a serious drought and when it is over, the basin will recover. We need to stop any further expansion in a part of the basin. Your property is in that zone. Obviously we are at the mercy of “mother nature”. The past has shown that following these drought years we usually will receive rainy years. This remains to be seen. None of the overlying users planted crops knowing that the water levels were going to drop as they have. Lets all stop this “haters attitude” and work toward a solution which is not going to cause more problems than solutions.

I’m curious to know what you are considering the “solution” that is going to “cause more problems than solutions”?

Apasoborn, the basin is in serious overdraft. You say “none of the overlying users planted crops knowing that the water levels were going to drop as they have.”. Pull your head out of the sand! The vineyard boom started in 1995 and by 2002, the basin level in the Paso Robles Airport area dropped by almost 100 feet. Vineyard expansion has never ceased. The fact that vineyards use less water than other crops is a moot point. There is more acres of vineyards than ever before and more being planted every year and the majority of the vineyards are not using water efficiently. The vineyards ARE the problem. The amazing thing is that the vineyards are hell bent on self destruction. If they run out of water it is game over. The basin is not an endless pit. Drilling deeper wells may yield poor quality water that could compromise the quality of the shallower parts of the aquifer if not developed properly. The sad part of this whole situation, is that the vineyard owners could not come together and self regulate.

Actually, they’ve come together in the guise of PRAAGS. a group formed to create a water district. don’t get too excited yet. It’s in the how that’s shocking. Their plan, is to create a district where the richest landowners get to vote… But wait, I have 4 acres, that should be worthy. Nope, in this big boys club, you must own thousands of acres. One of their board members owns 18,000 acres. they’re pushing imporitng water. so no reducing of water use, and they want us to pay for them to bring more water in that we still can’t use.

Are you sure they want you to pay for water you can’t use?

The PRAAGS website isn’t very clear, but my understanding is that the 18,000-acre owner is going to pay 4500 times more than you are with your 4 acres. So it’s not that you get to use “none” of the imported water, it is that you get to use the amount of water you would pay for.

It’s not a serious drought and the basin will not recover. The basin is in permanent overdraft. The Tea Party stooges for PRAAG are just trying to delay action so as to plant vines and drill wells at a record pace to position themselves for the inevitable adjudication.

Tea Party stooges?????? Poor little lefty, you attack a anti-tax and spend group of people on a thread concerning ground water issues. How Alinsky of you. Here’s a clue for your “brain”, they’re separate issues. Separate means they aren’t the same issue, got it? Now sprinkle a little Prozac on that granola, buckle up those Birkenstocks, and have a lovely day.

we did our due diligence, realtor said the aquifer was plentiful and we’d never run out. we got here just as the vineyard explosion began. how much 7,032%. over 7000% increase in the vineyards acreage planted. they know the drought was here, it’s still here and there’s a planting craze going on. and the big ag overlyers don’t care, they drill deeper. we can’t afford to. the only solution is to stop over planting. let AG tell you we can’t let them suffer, but what of us. I talked to a lady who is having to choose between the price of a new knee, and a new well both about thirty thousand dollars.

Families taking a shower once a week. Pathetic.

Bingo. Even IF the county wasn’t saddled with big ag hos like Arnold and Mechum, even if there were five pro-sustainable-water-use county supervisors, the climate change is such that a future of a residence with horses and fruit trees (even without a lawn) is not likely to be sustainable.

In addition, it is clear that the county and Paso Robles are focused on high-density housing, the LEAST sustainable type of housing in an arid environment like Paso. An arid environment can, sustainably, can host a limited amount of people without over-drafting its natural resources, such as water.

Homes on multiple acres–without horses, lawns, and other high-water-using frills–are actually a more sustainable approach. But in a community with unlimited growth with vineyards and high-density housing, the community as a whole is not sustainable, long-term.

My well isn’t dry and I’m angry? All the supes voted unanimously on Tuesday.

they voted to look at some suggested solutions. what do you want to bet they pick the smallest choice and say, well, did all i could, let’s go get a bottle of wine to celebrate. Dana Merrill of PRAAGS says they’ve got Debbie Arnold, so too bad for the rest of us…..

Such a slow rolling tragedy. How will our local Tea Party deal with their supes pn this one? To me it is another bow to moneyed interests, the puppet masters of this faux populist group.

I agree with what Chomsky has to say here with one VERY important exception. He targets only the “right wing” populist movement and currently the (supposedly) left-wing is the danger for exactly the same reasons.

I appreciate his sympathies concerning the tea party and how their world resembles the late Wiemar republic ie the clip has that unfortunate title, I thought the content worth injecting into the discussion concerning north county TP. kinda off topic water wise.

Wow. Red herring much, guys?

slomike often comes across petty and small, zaph – I’m shocked you found a video about nothing. Again. No really. Shocked.

Where are all your friends? Are they going to speak to the supes one after another on this important issue? Do you have an opinion r0y? I mean, about the water issue itself.

R0y here is Noam’s follow up why we shouldn’t ridicule the tea party