SLO County supervisors adopt urgency water ordinance

August 28, 2013
Hardham Ranch reservoir under construction.

Hardham Ranch reservoir under construction.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance Tuesday that prohibits new development and the planting of crops in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin area unless proposed projects save as much water as they use.

After more than 10 hours of public comment and discussion, the supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the urgency ordinance. Due to the death of Supervisor Paul Teixeira in June, all four sitting supervisors needed to vote in favor of the ordinance in order to adopt it.

Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill said the ordinance should require new projects to have 2:1 water offset, meaning they would save twice as much water as they use. But, supervisors Frank Mecham and Debbie Arnold agreed only to a 1:1 offset.

The urgency ordinance lasts only 45 days and will not affect the areas served by the San Miguel Community Services District and the Shandon County Services Area, which manage their own water usage. Residents replacing wells that went dry are also unaffected.

Under the urgency ordinance, the county will meter and monitor new irrigation wells to track compliance with the water usage restrictions.

The supervisors also considered placing a moratorium on new agricultural ponds but chose not to do so.

Upon expiration of the ordinance, the supervisors can extend it for the course of two years.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Just as global warming issue is false so is this anytime government has to rush an emergency ordinance, what your your freedom and your money.. This hastily put together law is no more than a power play to take property rights and weaken the north county so hill and gibson can turn it into a slum and bring all the business to south county. Shame on Mecham and Arnold, I thought they represented the north county.. Guess not

They want our precious winery fluids Mandrake!

Very funny Dr Stanelove, I have a real war room too.

correction, strangelove

They rushed to this decision because all you grape growers have been pumping with abandon and the water levels are dropping. What should we do? Keep planting until the water is gone for everyone? Take your recreational drug and push it somewhere else.

Bury your head in the sand and pretend none of it’s real…evolution, science climate change….you’ll be happier there…ignorance is bliss.

I remember the days when artesian wells ran freely out in Shandon and every summer we would go have lunch out at shell creek a couple time a year because the creek ran year round and we could play in it. Then people started planting alfalfa and not long after that the grapes came along and the creek and wells dried up?

Lets do a little test here. All of you 6000 rural residents take a 5 gallons bucket and put it under your inlet in your holding tank and you vineyard owners do the same in your reservoirs. Count the number of buckets you fill up in 1 minute and then we will compare what the outcome is. If I had to guess, all 6000 homeowners pumping 10 gallons a minute is going to fall short of what all the vineyards pump at 1000, 2000 gallons a minute.

Frank Mechum said there is enough blame to go around. Well guess what, I didn’t approve my house to be built here THE COUNTY DID. The Vineyards didn’t approve there 500, 1000 acre ranch, THE COUNTY DID. Gary Eberle said on KPRL you can not find an overhead sprinkler anywhere anymore! Just past his vineyard I saw two vineyards with them and one more on Union road. Kevin at KPRL said the facts are that only 8 wells have gone dry and 8 more are going dry. Mine is down about 50 or 60 feet from 10 year ago so does that mean it’s not going dry?

The facts are, this was dry land farming area. Barley, Wheat, Almonds etc. and water was not a problem. Now it is! I’m glad we are heading in the right direction! It is simple math, no water = no vineyards = no houses = no nothing but dust in the wind!!!

For all you pro vineyard folks, I ask one question: Do you really support people like the heartless Resnicks who just got done sinking huge wells off of Creston Road right after the bulldozed hundreds of magnificent oaks. Do you even realize they just bulldozed an additional 150 acres of thick oak forests out in the Chimney Rock area just to make,more of a recreational drug even though they are mega billionaires? What is enough for people like this? At least Gallo try’s to be a better steward of the land and,work around their trees. Boycott Justin wines who those idiots now own.

Curious how this could possibly be. If they did that much bulldozing, they needed a grading permit. And if they got a grading permit, they would have had to avoid or mitigate for all oak tree loss. This doesn’t make sense.

Avarice is hard to buck.

So now we have 45 days and hopefully a total of 2 years to figure out how to save the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. This comes very late in the game… like trying to hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th with two strikes and a couple of men on base. Are the Supervisors up to it? Will the appointment of the fifth Supervisor help? Can we develop a spirit of cooperation and actually Save the Basin?

Questions, questions! Here’s another Question: Will the City Council of Paso Robles ever realize that their plans to proceed headlong to ramp up the Paso Robles population from ~30,000 to ~44,000 (ostensibly to help pay for Nacimiento water) puts further stress on the PRGWB and completely sends the wrong message at this critical time? Perhaps it is time for the Paso Robles City Council to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

This was never about today’s water, it is about future control of Rural America. If it were about water urgency then the Santa Margarita Lake (Salinas Resevoir) would be a party to the resolve. San Luis Obispo must be clicking their heels. Future Ag took a blow for their benefit and to keep the other city bros happy, they were ordinance exempt too.

Today North County has a Lake they can’t swim in, a River that is underground and a basin that gets filled AFTER San Luis Obipo fills their basin, Santa Margarita Lake. When assessing the desired outcome, a dam in the river is irrelevant, controling North County’s need for the water behind that dam is what actually happend!

Spot on Jorge…

Anyone who is serious about looking into the water supply in the North County needs to look at SM Lake, the City of SLO and the way all permits in the county are issued…

I’m mad as hell too about the water situation, but Salinas Reservoir (Santa Margarita Lake) doesn’t really impact the Paso groundwater basin. In theory, the water behind the dam is water that would have run right down the Salinas River and ended up in the ocean. The dam is required to release whatever is entering the lake during the dry months. The only time Salinas Reservoir is allowed to hold back water is when a certain stream flow is achieved north of Paso Robles. The only time that flow is achieved is during a storm when there is significant runoff from other inputs to the Salinas River. So, right now, whatever water is running into Salinas Reservoir, is being released right into the Salinas River as if the dam wasn’t there. Only during a storm with significant runoff, can the reservoir hold water back.

Yes we are reading from the same book but remember that the lake is currently 23,000 acre-feet and that it needs to fill first, thence shortening the recharge time for the Paso Basin.

In a very SLO process, the City of SLO is a party to the permit application for 46,000 acre-feet (double the current storage capacity) of this North County water which would require inserting the steel gates that were constructed for this endeavor. In 70 years of existence, this has never been done thence the terms of the application has never been achieved and a license has never been issued.

If the recharge time for filling the lake is not of concern, then why not partner with SLO City and finish the project to retain a better drought reliability recharge capacity for North County. Naciement Lake was constructed for ground water recharge, benefiting Monterey County’s need to oppose saltwater intrusion, the result of pumping fresh water to grow the food we eat.

Remember what happened to the Owens Valley and what Smart Growth (LA) did to that aquifer. A Mulholland residing on the City Council of SLO is almost a Twilight Zone episode that her Grandpa would be proud of, just a sideline coincidence but true.

It was my understanding that unless the stream gauge north of Paso Robles read a certain flow, then any water that comes into Salinas Reservoir has to “pass through” regardless of whether the lake is full or not. Only when the stream flow reaches the proper level, can they close the valve and retain water behind the dam. I could be wrong, but that was my understanding.

Looks like Mecham and Arnold will have a difficult time getting re-elected if they continue down their soft-peddling path. They don’t seem to know a crisis when it’s staring them in the face. Unfortunately, Gibson/Hill are looking like victors to Paso Roblans.

I think Debbie Arnold was in a difficult situation as she knew that this is a ploy from Hill and Gibson to seize this drought situation and turn it into an agenda to control further rural growth. I think she statement had a lot of heart when she stated that Gov Brown will appoint another Gibdam and they will have totally their way so negotiate and bring some issues forward for both sides.

I think during this timeout everyone stop pointing the finger, spouting hatred toward their neighbors, friends and community members as this will solve nothing and start to work together for solutions. Like it or not, something needs to get done on behalf of the entire community. I have heard many comments about vineyards using little water on their vines but how about the wine processing because that is where the bulk of the water is used. Maybe transferring the grapes to another location where water is available could be a solution. Family retirement ranches maybe need to forego their swimming pools, big lawns, etc. I don’t know, I just feel that as intelligent stewards of ownership of a fine piece of Americana we could work together and solve this ongoing problem with as little government intervention as we can.

Thank you, Debbie, and I know this was a balancing act for you between property rights and working with the two and a half corrupt and evil supervisors.

This was not a ploy by Gibson and Hill to take control. For God’s sake, the studies done by hydrologists and the USGS were commissioned by the county because of the aquifer overdraft. This action was not planned by Gibson and Hill and was not carried out as a power grab.

We have a real problem in the North County and most of us know it. Rural growth, the growth of new vineyards, and the Paso Robles growth cannot be allowed to spiral out of control so just a few people can make a lot of money.

yeah, stop pointing the finger, spouting hatred, but, but, but the other supes are corrupt and evil. ha ha. ha

Slobird, in this case I believe you are wrong. I’m no Hill or Gibson fan, but in this case they were on the correct side of the issue.

As far as your wish that people “stop pointing the finger, spouting hatred towards their neighbors, friends and community members, as this will solve nothing, and start to work together for solutions…”

The rural residential homeowners whose property is in jeopardy because of the rapid decline in the level of the Paso GW basin levels have every right to be angry at the gluttonous wine interests. The mega-ego wine interests who have, with their unsustainable use of water, put the Paso GW basin at risk, is the reason for the anger, and the anger is justified.

Some of these wine interests, in the two weeks between the last BOS meeting and yesterday’s meeting, when the emergency ordinance issue was to be settled, have taken advantage of the two weeks and shoved more vines into the ground, and/or started even deeper wells.

These actions are a slap in the face to the rural residential homeowners. And you want the rural residential homeowners to just bend over and take it from the mega wine interests?

The anger, and the reason for the anger, needs to be acknowledged, and the reason for the anger–the gluttonous use of water by wine interests, putting the homes of rural residential users at risk–needs to be changed so that the rural homeowners’ future water supplies are no longer at risk from the vanity wine interests.

The existing mega wine interests have gotten their way on some very important points, which saves them from being held accountable for their destructive and irresponsible water- and land-use practices. The rural residential homeowners have already been harmed, and many of the conditions that caused the harm are going to be allowed to continue.

The time to make-nice and work it out was about 10 years ago when the mega wine industries started targeting the Paso GW basin for plunder. Now that these irresponsible wine interests have perhaps irrevocably damaged the Paso GW basin, you want the rural residential homeowners to just kiss and make up?

I think both Arnold and Mechum have shown whose interests they serve in their positions on the County Board of Supervisors.

Arnold and Mechum have to go. Their irresponsible schilling for special interests is putting the Paso GWBasin, and the future of the north county, at risk.

Meanwhile the alfalfa farmer across from the mega vineyard on La Panza waters 24-7 including the road as the new vines creep into view behind this green marsh. Stewards of the land. Not.

Well, it is about time some step(s) were taken. But after listening to much of the BOS discussion, I have to believe that at least 1 (maybe 2) of them did not really want to vote for the ordinance; but knew deep down that they had to – or they would be figuratively hung. It was of no real surprise that Ms. Arnold handled herself as she did – arguing against almost every word of the resolution, requesting many changes, being mostly long-winded; but finally, when the vote that counted had to be made – she had to votes yes. But she can go back to her rich backers and tell them she tried.

Mr. Mecham, on the other hand, suddenly seen the ‘light’ (for the third or fourth time) and had to accept the fact that the basin is in deep trouble. So very sad that Mr. Mecham will never publicly admit that he and the actions he took as Paso Mayor and BOS member for past several years has resulted in having the Groundwater Basin in the condition it is. He now wants everyone to believe he is vitally interested ands committed, but I believe he has his own agenda and reasons.

Mr. Hill and Mr. Gibson were in favor of strong (even stronger) resolution, months or years ago. One primary reason being that they are for almost anything that Mecham and Arnold are against. That is just the way it is with our BOS. 2 of them would strongly believe 2+2 = 5, if the other 2 believed the answer was 4.

So now we have an ordinance for 45 days. Will it become permanent?, witl it have real teeth?, will it make any difference? Time will tell, but I can bet there are many people with vested interests who are trying to find the loopholes and take advantage of them.

You mean, like the self-serving, “I-got-mine-who-cares-about-you” @**holes who shoved new grape plantings into the ground and started new and deeper wells during the two week interval between the first and second BOS meetings about the emergency ordinances?