PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity don’t see future water banking

January 29, 2014

praags_logo (2)OPINION By JERRY REAUGH

Two North County groups are taking exception to claims made by a small group of property owners regarding formation of the Paso Robles Basin Water District (PRBWD). In what they describe as a careless and misleading public relations effort, leadership of PRAAGS (Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions) and PWE (Pro Water Equity) took exception with two groups opposing water district formation, and the spokesperson for both groups, Cindy Steinbeck.

“Ms. Steinbeck is engaging in a smear campaign intended to deceive and confuse residents with the intent of protecting a select group of property owners unwilling to collaborate on solutions to the declining groundwater levels,” stated Jerry Reaugh, chairman of PRAAGS. “We are in a critical situation where honest discourse and partnership is needed. Deception and half-truths are counterproductive to this effort.”

Ms. Steinbeck accuses PRAAGS and PWE of lying about the reasons for forming a water district, as stated in the online publication She claims the district’s real purpose is to create a “water bank” to sell and export water to other regions.


In response to declining groundwater levels, exacerbated by the worst drought in over a century, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance in August 2013 to temporarily limit increased ground water usage. PRAAGS had forwarded a concept to form a water district, and eventually collaborated with PWE, representing small landowners, to offer a structure for managing the groundwater basin that fairly represents all water users dependent on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. In December the two groups proposed that a special district be created by the legislature. The cooperative effort has been hailed by disparate groups as being a fair and equitable approach for managing the basin.

The Paso Robles region is the last remaining major agricultural area in California to create a water district.

The water district provides for a nine member board of directors, resident to the district, with three members elected by registered voters, and six members split into three groups of two, each representing small, medium and large landowners.

A petition, calling for a special election to form the district, will be submitted to LAFCO the week of January 27, 2014.

It provides a mechanism to effectively manage the water basin and proactively work to acquire new water resources.

No water banking

Contrary to claims by POWR and PRWIN, PRAAGS/PWE has never mentioned “exporting water from the basin” as an option for the proposed PRBWD. “Quite the opposite, this proposal has always been about addressing a 60-year problem of diminishing water resources, fair representation of all groundwater users, and the acquisition of new resources to replenish the groundwater basin,” stated Reaugh. “It has never been suggested, nor is it logical to sell local water to other regions when it is so desperately needed here.”

Language in the petition flatly states that, “the district shall not export water from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.”

Reaugh went on to say that tough questions and strong examination of our proposal is expected, “but we don’t accept the misguided efforts of a few people, whose self-interests are getting in the way of good long range planning and equity for all water users.”

More information can be found at


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When the “Water Banks” go belly up, will we have to bail them out?

So now PRAAG has hired a PR agency to sell their package of goods because people are beginning to ask the right questions and they are not getting the full answers. If this water district is formed it will be one of the biggest mistakes this County has done and a raid on our future water supply. This is how it is done people, panic because of the crisis, quick make decisions to benefit the powers of control and wealth as everyone is in disarray, (just like the Obama Administration has stated, never let a good crisis go to waste). Someone is supplying all this legal manure and now the PR firm and believe they are not doing it as a gift for locals pr their humanity. Following the money people and then decide if you want to be in bed with people and their control. This is a dangerous future for everyone. Read below, see who is leading this charge, follow the money, and remember, after the drought what will you have to live with. More reason to not for this is the new AB 22 being proposed in Sacrament. Google, read and wakeup San Luis Obispo voters.

Justin Winery commits $10,000 to new city park

Published on October 5th, 2013

Now this is how you get things done! 10k to help my neighbor with a dry well or… Grease the skids politically.

The more research I do, the timing of this and voting is questionable. Who at BOS represents this area?

Fair enough. Enlighten us on specifically how this contribution to a city leads to one guy taking over a water district (which doesn’t include the city) that is run by 9 people who must own land and live here? No generalities or innuendos please. Please use fact based references. You can go to and the Kern Water Bank Authority’s web site ( for how water banks work and how they have helped ease the State’s water shortages for decades.

As you read though the data, you will find that there are generally three different types of water governance structures: Water Storage Districts, Water Banks, and Water Service Districts.All very distinct in what they do and how they operate. The proposed district for our basin is the latter.

Good research as you say you have done should lead you to different views on this subject. Present both sides for the readers here so that they can form their own opinions.

As two your last question, we are represented by two of the five Supervisors on the County Board. I assume you knew that. And your inference is well taken that it hasn’t gotten us very far when it comes to managing our groundwater. Wouldn’t you rather be represented by landowners here?

He lies. She lies. Whom to believe? Throw in a bit of fear and here we are. The only question, and really the only one is what are we as a group of diverse folks with different agendas going to do? PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity used to be arch enemies with such divergent views that just a few months ago there was no hope of ever resolving the issue. Jerry Reaugh, Dana Merrill, Sue Luft, Jan Seals and Laurie Gage and others got this done. Any of us would be proud to have them as neighbors. On the dawn of the agreement between these two groups and out of left field comes two lawsuits. Cindy Steinbeck and her group. All good seemly well intended folks.

Now the lawsuit group is saying that individual rights trump community rights. Yes, it’s a bit more complicated than that, however if you boil it down that’s really what’s at stake here. I have been to most of the PRAAGS/PWE open meetings. Cindy has been at many of them too. She asks the same questions and gets the same answers that PRAAGS and PWE are against exporting water. How many times does it have to be said? This area can’t export water it doesn’t have. Water that would be brought here stays here to be used by us. We couldn’t import enough water to have excess to sell. Yet she hears these answers and walks away and tells folks that “they” are not telling the whole story. She doesn’t tell anyone what the part is they are not telling. She lets it just hang there. Is that being honest?

PRAAGS and PWE have made it clear that this language will be written into district’s formation documents and the County reaffirms this too. They will be made public.Then what? Squirrel! Look over there. A private rich guy will want to put water into a water starved basin so he can take it out and sell it for a profit. What? How does that happen? Who would allow that? Does that make any sense to anyone? Really? Would the County’s Blue Ribbon Committee made up of our best and brightest water folks who are charged with coming up with solutions have endorsed the PRAAGS/PWE proposed district? Their vote was unanimous. Has that no weight?

Fast forward a bit. Assume, for example the district wants to bring in water to the cone of depression from Lake Nacimiento . Our water district buys this water exclusively for this purpose. Why would it then want to “sell” or export ( how about paper water or other mumbo jumbo?) this water at a later time? Why would we elect folks who live and own property here to make such idiotic decisions? Conspiracy theorists have at it, however it has no basis in reality.

Lets get real. We are now divided between a vast majority of folks who want to at least have some say in the governing process of a shared precious commodity versus a few who have chosen to look out for their own interests. It is no more complicated than that. It is difficult to understand how Cindy’s group will never reach critical mass as more folks come to realize that she and her small group have a limited vision with little sense of community or have no interest in joining in a democratic process. Let’s assume Cindy wins. I think the rest of us loose. No more water and no say. She would say it is legally right, but would it be morally right?

So why don’t we all decide for ourselves. It’s not perfect but it is democratic and it gives us all the best chance of having some control over what happens to our water.

I don’t believe the original members of PWE believe that the interests of the people are being represented by this deal –

At this point I’d like to know how many people are even in PWE I heard she sold them all out.

Maybe this “deal” is really just Between the few people you mention.

Why should the interest of one group subvert the other? Again, look at the individuals,their background and qualifications that serve on the Blue Ribbon Committee. Rural residents are fairly represented on the Committee. They have studied the PRAAGS/PWE proposal in detail. So has the County’s Planning Department. Both have overwhelmingly come out and supported this approach. Again, the Blue Ribbon Committee’s vote was unanimous.

Someone will come in here and tell us what to do with our water. Again, why not us? With a judge, we get no say and no vote. Ever try to reason with a one? We cannot return to the unlimited pumping of groundwater. However, I repeat myself.

As a general rule of thumb, believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.

Its pretty hard to not believe it when I heard it from the horses mouth

Jerry is full of manure! I was at the PRAAGS/PWE meeting at Pear Valley Winery and when asked by several audience members about “exchange and export/sale” powers being in the proposed special legislation and why it could not be removed. It was answered as a group by Jerry R., Steve S., and Sue L. that those powers were needed for future possible exchanges with Semitropic Storage District in Kern.

Someone at this meeting also asked why PWE uses the attorney responsible for trying to steal the water rights of the rural land owners and farmers in Santa Maria? I didn’t hear a good answer but by reading all of these blogs and the latest Blackburn article I am really scratching my head.

This is not passing the “smell test” to me. Jerry don’t send your stinking petition my way, you might not like what you get back!

Jerry Reaugh and his cohorts say their efforts will lead to “equity for all water users.” Boy, if that happens, it truly would be a first in human experience.

I have known the Steinbecks for a very long time. They are salt of the earth types who have been farming here for five years longer than the City of Paso has been in existence. Everyone who knows them knows that they would never ever be “self interested”. Jerry should be ashamed of himself for saying such things because he knows them personally too. Just shows what money will make people do. All Cindy is doing is protecting what is already hers — her California water right which is part of her property right as an overlier of the PRGWB. That right is for the “reasonable and beneficial use” of the water beneath her land – she cannot sell the water she can just use it on her land reasonably & beneficially and if it is her responsibility to cut back usage based on California water law then she will do so BY LAW. She has no intentions of creating an “export” district that will be able to “exchange” our PRGWB for profit like Jerry does.

The truth is you have to look at financial motives. Anyone pushing a district and wanting export powers for the district and/or exchanges is seeking to make a profit. Cindy has no profit to make, she just wants to continue farming as her family has for 130 years. I believe we should have a town hall meeting and ALL PRGWB overliers should be provided written NOTICE and all PRAAGS members should be there and disclose if this is their intention so that ALL North County will be aware and can decide if this is the district that they want or not. Katcho should also be there so he can determine if this is truly what the overliers want. If PRAAGS members have a conflict of interest it should be known. Everyone here will be impacted by the exportation, not only the overliers in the proposed district. Without this I believe the overliers are being kept in the dark about true motives.

If Cindy Steinbeck is just leading a “smear campaign” for her own personal benefit — why don’t you provide North County with assurances that this District will NOT EXPORT EVER by making sure that the District does not have the power to do so EVER. It seems many people at this moment are feeling afraid that the agenda of this District might not be what it is telling people. So far, all we know is that it wants a hybrid 9 member board. There is so much more to talk about.

I’m getting tired of the “he said she said” stuff going on while SLO continues to divert water from the North County and has and approved applicaton to double their current storage. Everybody is so concerned about brokering water outside of our County while SLO brokers water outside of the Salinas River Water Shed. This is a complete joke and rather than using County Dollars to bring closure to SLO’s, 70 year old, never completed project, our BOS has approved the spending of $700,000 to hire and out of area PROFESSIONAL to study water flows down hill. I can see it now, the PROFFESSIONAL STUDY sez, with circles and arrows, and with that we can now make and informed decission. Just that rediculous!

I say spend the money to terminate SLO’s application, require that SLO apply for a new project, one that can actually be constructed and that the permit thence licensed be required to include 200 acre-feet as previously permitted for The Town of Santa Margarita and lost through negligence 15 years ago by County Government inaction.

That said and when completed, we will have all the studies ever needed to assess who, what and where when it comes to the North County Salinas River and It’s Basins.

What kind of project Do you refer too in Santa Margarita? Are you refering to a water reliability project for existing residents ? Or, Do you mean that you would like to Gain more water for additional growth …. to help grease the road for the already defunct non-compliant Toad Project The Santa Margarita Ranch Agricultural Subdivision DUD? 112 mansions on and around drying streams , outside the urban reserve line where ZERO infrastructure exists, dumping more sewage into the water table , amidst agricultural pesticide runoff …ALL together running downhill towards one of Santa Margarita’s primary drinking water supply wells in the flood plain? This poorly planned and overly ambitious sprawl scheme just so happens to require 200 acre feet of Nacimiento water too (which does not exist reliably) and is also full of mercury …. They have NO WATER to spare …so they willl DUMP (bank ) that poison mercury water into the once pristine Upper Salinas watershed so they can drill 112 additional wells for the mansions, then more for the event centers, a golf course, etc etc ? REALLY…Then add the proposed quarry nearby? Hope That is not your Great New Project Plan?..

Anyone who knows Jerry knows he did not write this. A sophisticated water attorney (possibly Kern Water Bank’s general counsel who is also counsel to PRAAGS) wrote it and I want to draw attention to the quote “to sell LOCAL water to other regions” and “not export water from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin” – these are intending to mislead. They are going to argue that they are not selling “local” water but instead are selling “SWP” water.

The lay person will assume that these statements mean there will be no export. Quite the opposite — the word “banking” is one term but there a slew of others e.g. exchanges/transfers/conjunctive use etc. (again I am sure they will come up with others now that you know these) and they all pretty much equal the same result – our native groundwater will leave our basin in exchange for a fraction of placed water. Essentially we will exchange our native groundwater for another district’s SWP water. They will leave behind a little of what they claim to “put” in our basin to make us believe that they are providing a “supply side option”. When they extract the water they will state it was the water they “put” in, not our native groundwater. But, this is mathematically impossible because they State Water Project does not have enough water going into to fill the allotments. Do not be fooled.

To get the good will of the people and stand behind what Jerry is saying in this opinion piece I think everyone in North County should DEMAND that the PWE/PRAAGS district does NOT have export powers in its “special legislation”. We have enough resources in the North County to either recycle/resuse and/or conserve. Opening up our water “vein” so to speak so that a select few PRAAGS people can profit off “exchanges” is WAY too risky. Think about it, do you really think that the SWP that is delivering only 5% has water to exchange with us??

Not to mention Naci water is full of poison mercury, and the lake is nearly dry-There IS NO extra reliable supply there.