Groundwater ordinance bubbling in controversy

August 4, 2013

waterBy DANIEL BLACKBURN

County supervisors will take their first look Tuesday at a wide range of options for a controversial emergency ordinance aimed at curtailing demand on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. (See full staff report here.)

“The discussion will be solely to consider options for an ordinance to regulate demand,” wrote County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi, adding that the board will receive “a full report on the basin issue August 27.”

The staff report before supervisors is intended, said Buckshi, to provide a pathway to preparation of an ordinance designed to slow water extractions while a more permanent solution to overdraft problems is developed.

Such an ordinance will not be received cordially by some of the North County’s agricultural community, members of which have rallied around the concept of a water district with authority to initiate aquifer stabilizing policies and practices.

A group of vineyard owners have formed the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions to attempt circumventing an emergency ordinance like the one now being discussed.

The alliance met last week in Paso Robles to discuss options to new, restrictive regulations on groundwater use. John Crossland, the alliance’s treasurer, told the group any ordinance would be “draconian” and he warned supervisors to proceed carefully, suggesting restrictions could put some growers out of business.

An emergency ordinance requires a four-fifths vote and would contain findings “that there is a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare” by the issuance of new construction and use permits, variances, and other entitlements, according to the county’s staff report.

Among the options that supervisors will consider would be a blanket application of an ordinance’s reach to all properties within the unincorporated areas of the groundwater basin.

The board could prohibit “any uses that may be in conflict” with preservation of the basin’s supply, to the extent of prohibiting new or expanded irrigated crop production; conversion of dry farm or grazing land to new irrigated crops; and new development dependent on well water from the groundwater basin.

Construction of agricultural ponds might be completely prohibited, or their size severely limited.

Projects considered to be “in the pipeline” — projects that do not require a permit or have already been permitted — will not be affected by passage of an emergency ordinance.


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54 Comments

  1. JB Bronson says:

    What ever happenned to the realization that Paso is paying for Nacimiento water it can’t use because the sewer plant is too small-too old. Is Paso still paying fines on the sewer plant? Are Paso citizens still paying for water they can’t get?

    (13) 15 Total Votes - 14 up - 1 down
    • CONCERNEDINPR says:

      Once again, Jim App.

      Fail to Plan. Plan to Fail. It makes perfect sense that PR cannot use it’s Naci water allocation as the direct result of Jim App allowing the city’s sewer plant to fall into a complete state of disrepair due to an absence of infrastructure updates and routine maintenance.

      PR has taken serious steps back under the Jim App administration. I am fed up with this city manager’s ineptitude and self serving interests.

      (13) 13 Total Votes - 13 up - 0 down
      • pasowino says:

        Technically, the sewer plant has nothing to do with why the city can’t use the Naci water. In order to use Naci water, the city will need to build a water treatment facility to make the Naci water potable for the resident of Paso Robles. The wastewater treatment plant is a whole other issue all together.

        (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
  2. Tammy says:

    I say sell now!

    (-4) 6 Total Votes - 1 up - 5 down
    • Lynn says:

      We would love to sell however, with the well dry and no guarantee for water level, no one will buy.
      This does not solve the high usage of water by the vineyards!!!

      (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down
    • R.Hodin says:

      Try 2007.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
      • Tammy says:

        If one owns a 100 acre parcel on the East Side of Paso Robles and grows no grapes, it is a home, a place that has been in a family for over 50 years, handed down from one generation to the next. There is a time to sell the farm, especially when water becomes an issue in a region that is zones agricultural and ordinances are being drafted to prohibit new crops. Ghee, then what can you do. Just sit there and burn up?

        What I don’t here is straight talk on what this is doing to agricultural property values. Any straight talking real estate professionals out there that aren’t lying for their own personal interests?

        (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
    • jimmy_me says:

      Yep, one of those funny things. Industrial growers get free/cheap water to grow grapes so the can profit from sales of alcohol. The people who want to have gardens that grow actual “food” are either out of luck or will be forced to pay a premium price for the water. How is this not going to negatively affect property values in PR?

      (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  3. MaryMalone says:

    Today the County BOS is hearing the proposals for emergency measures to stem the rapid decline of the Paso groundwater basin. The following is something to consider as you listen to, or watch, the BOS try to do as little as possible to stop the GW basin’s march to failure, while propping up the special interests which have brought the Paso groundwater basin to this degraded state. For those who will be making comments, this may be of use to support your arguments against the water-pirating practices of the vintners and others who will just pack up and move on once the destruction is done.

    I’ve used the term “California’s Dust Bowl” to describe the fate that the county BOS seems destined to drive us with its unsustainable planning and development policies.

    This is not hyperbole. It is a very real possibility. We saw it happen in the 1930s in the midwest, and we are seeing it happen now in New Mexico.

    An example of how this transformation occurs can be seen in an article in today’s LA Times (A Dry and Desperate State, http://tinyurl.com/lm3s6ny). This article tells how–in the context of the drought in the western states–New Mexico is turning into a dustbowl.

    In New Mexico, unwise planning, in which over-grazing was allowed on public lands, is on the verge of collapsing New Mexico’s prairie grassland’s ecosystem. As occurred in the 1930’s dust bowl, where uncontrolled and unwise land use turned parts of the midwest’s prairie grassland ecosystem into a dust bowl, New Mexico now faces a future where the Rio Grande is reduced to a trickle, ecosystems and economies collapse, and people are forced to try to find livings elsewhere.

    The same thing can happen here in our county. The big vineyard owners and factory winemakers will swill up all of Paso’s water and, when the ecosystem fails, will just move on to the next community it will eagerly destroy to enrich themselves.

    The risks of not speaking out now for sustainable water use are great. Do what you can to bring the unsustainable practices of our county’s planning and development department to a halt.

    (15) 25 Total Votes - 20 up - 5 down
  4. obispan says:

    We do have quite a thirst *slurp* but we planned and we paid. The North County believes in “God’s will” and a “couple of good years” while ignoring all facts about the aquifer and blaming the “People’s Republic of San Luis Obispo”, which has no effect on the Paso basin (but you do). No socialism south of the Grade, just smarter developers. Oh yeah, when you come on weekends, be sure to bring plenty of money that you won’t spend in your own communities.

    (6) 18 Total Votes - 12 up - 6 down
  5. Jorge Estrada says:

    For starters, if the Fish and Game and Regional Water Quality Control Board actually did their jobs, many violations would clear the water ways. As for the Salinas Dam, what a joke to not include that in the Paso Robles Ground Water Study, in fact San Luis Obispo has quite a thirst for that water to feed their new housing projects as well as mixed uses.

    I don’t understand why people allow the special interest to overlook the business of Cityhood, they would rather sit still while their government and crafty media squelches the property rights of Rural America. We then have the tax sucking government exploiting the natural resorces for a better place to live. Grow, Grow Grow,Stupid!

    (3) 15 Total Votes - 9 up - 6 down
    • obispan says:

      Include what? A dam with no effect on the Paso basin? To deny what? The fact that you’ve thoroughly screwed yourself?

      (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
      • Jorge Estrada says:

        46,000 acre-feet of water that could flow to the SLO side of the hill rather than to the Paso Robles basin, just read their permit. The Salinas River is the major water line merged with the San Juan and Estrella, two lessor rain shed rivers. The Salinas River has a Steelhead population because it’s greater surface flow that can sustain access the various year round spring feed creeks, essential for this breed and the fish don’t lie.

        (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
        • R.Hodin says:

          The portion of the Santa Margarita watershed that flows into the Salinas is a fraction of the greater Salinas watershed. If SLO hadn’t claimed that water legally in the past, then more greedy Paso area vineyards would be stealing it in the current era. Besides, that same permit requires live stream releases for the steelhead. Not defending SLO’s claim, just trying to fill out the context.

          (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
        • obispan says:

          Doesn’t flow to the basin, flows past the basin into the ocean. Learn what “live stream” means. The basin recharge is a constant, demand is the variable.

          (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Fish and Game are so woefully understaffed that, even after many reports by witnesses and at least one local agency, they could not investigate farmworkers defecating in Nipomo Creek.

      (-5) 7 Total Votes - 1 up - 6 down
      • Jorge Estrada says:

        Maybe some of the EPA or State Water Quality Control Board monies should go to the Fish and Game. Why have an agency that just monitors the hunting and fishing industry and does not remedy violations to the required habitat?

        (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down

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