Water district supporters criticize POWR and PR-WIN

February 13, 2014

praags_logo (2)OPINION by JERRY REAUGH and SUE LUFT

We urge the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to approve the Legislative Platform Policy Statement on February 18, supporting special legislation that would advance the process to create an independent water district for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGB).

The proposed district has received widespread support. Don’t let a small, belligerent group, namely POWR, PR-WIN, and spokesperson Cindy Steinbeck, dictate that, as overliers, they can extract unlimited water from the basin — without regard for neighbors or the basin’s health.

This argument is selfish and harmful — for them and everyone else. Their pursuit of their “Quiet Title” lawsuit against the county claims that significant water resources exist, despite the fact that the area Steinbeck lives in has been hit particularly hard.

Initial studies confirm that portions of the PRGB have been in decline for years. The decline has caused hardships for many and is exacerbated by a devastating drought. The foot-dragging, conspiracy theories, and head-in-the-sand approaches by these groups will only worsen the existing problem.

On the other side, you have the majority, both members and nonmembers of PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity, trying to work productively toward a solution. These residents and landowners believe the proposed water district provides a balanced approach to managing the basin. The Water Resources Advisory Committee, the county’s Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC), and The Tribune have also examined the plan and endorsed it as fair.

Water district formation and voting structure

There is still ample time for all stakeholders to get involved. First, a majority of landowners must sign the petition to get it in front of the LAFCO board. Then, the LAFCO process involves many public hearings and opportunities for input. Finally, if after reviewing the proposed petition for a water district LAFCO allows it to go before voters, there will be a public election. There are three components of this election, and district formation is contingent upon both the first and second components passing.

1. Vote to approve or disapprove of forming a district – California water law says votes for forming a water district are based on acreage owned.

2. Vote to approve or reject the initial assessment to fund the district – This is based on Proposition 218, which is California law. It’s written into the state constitution and is designed to be financially fair for everyone. Basically, irrigated land pays more so the average landowner or resident can afford the district, so votes based on land is fair. By law, we can’t have one person-one vote. Supreme Court decisions, such as Ball v. James, support this format.

3. Vote to elect the district’s board of directors – The plan provides for a nine-member board of directors elected from throughout the district, providing checks, balances and comprehensive representation. Directors are elected within two categories: one representing registered voters (residents) with one vote per voter and one representing landowners with votes based on acreage owned. All directors will be volunteers and have the same powers once seated.

Our basin is in crisis and we need action

Someone commented at the Feb. 11 Board of Supervisors meeting that the language keeps changing. That’s because we continue holding meetings, listening to suggestions, and altering the district to make it fair. Since the BRC recommended developing a governance structure on May 7 — nine months ago — more than a dozen public meetings, research, deliberation, compromise, input from the community and government officials, and revisions have led us to the proposed hybrid district. After all of the concessions, we’re starting to think that some people just enjoy arguing.

With that said, we cannot delay any longer for two overarching reasons:

1. The basin’s continued decline – During the Feb. 11 meeting, Karen Lange of Peterson Consulting, Inc., pointed to the Feb. 21 deadline for introducing a bill for a water district. If we act now, we might have a district in a year. That’s important because setting up the district and stabilizing the basin will take time. Any delays will compound the problem, and we cannot afford greater water decline.

2. The state’s impending ultimatum – Lange said of Gov. Brown’s budget proposal for 2014-15, “He’s put local governments on notice that if they don’t or can’t manage their groundwater problems themselves, the State Water Resources Control Board is going to step in and do it for you.” According to Lange, the state will enact that budget in June — just four months away.

Moreover, a few are undermining our chance to meet these deadlines by involving the courts. If the courts get involved, we’ll all waste a lot of time and money, still end up with some sort of water management body, and have even less — or no — say in how it’s formed.

We in the North County have made excellent progress in finding a balanced approach to managing and protecting the basin locally. Let’s work together and keep moving forward for local control.

Jerry Reaugh is the chairman of PRAAGS and Sue Luft is the president, PRO Water Equity, Inc.


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The powerful, whether on the political end or the land end are pushing hard to make this district happen with a political body rather than judicial. PRAGGS and PRO represent everything the American people can’t stand: deceitful political cronies working the power grab angle before everyone realizes what happened.

The county wants their hands on that water so badly they can taste it. Shame on ‘politics as usual’ and shame on PRAGGS and PRO.

Sue Luft : you got TOOK! You sat down with big boys and they stripped you blind…Too bad

Very funny. Who do you think Sue Luft is working for? the bigger boys (hint: the boys who do not show up at PRAAGS meetings, they just have their attorney direct the show).

Hey Jerry:

Just another thought, have you pondered that every time you and PRAAGS/PWE personally attack POWR and Cindy Steinbeck instead of addressing the real concerns and questions asked of PRAAGS/PWE that her phone at POWR is ringing off the hook with people interested and supportive of her cause?

I am sure that she and her group are secretly thanking you.

PS: The only REAL crisis is the one PRAAGS/PWE is having now that the light has been shone on the critters trying to push this District and Legislation forward. If you are so concerned about wasting time and money, feel free to waste your own, not ours on your self serving District.

Jerry & Sue:

You, your “advisors” and cohorts are doing irreprable damage to our community by politicizing this process and pitting neighbor against neighor and residents against businesses that happen to drive a large part of the N. County economy.

Adjudication will take care of our Basin in a Fair and Lawful way.


Karma is a great thing and I sure hope that your role in this deceitful ploy for the rich and powerful is worth selling your soul, your neighbors, friends, family and community for this district of evildoers is worth it. I will no longer respect or trust anything you say or do.

Sure glad to see so many people with common sense now becoming aware of the power play these people are using. We’ve got to all stand up to this. Next Tuesday, Feb. 18th, at 9:00am, the Board of Supervisors are voting for this to go forward to the next step in the process presenting the plan to LAFCO. Let them hear your voice, receive your email or phone call.

I am not in any way connected with this issue. To me, his words sound pretty reasonable.

The devil is in the details though and if system for electing the District’s Board of Directors is not very carefully designed to give enough voice to the small landowners, they will get shafted. There are simply too many big players with overwhelming economic interests involved on the PRAAGS/PRO Water Equity side to allow them free rein with a Water District. I am sure that many members are honest and decent people but I would be very nervous about the Kern County lawyer and the Resnicks pulling a fast one to make big bucks at everyone else’ expense.

This sounds a lot like laws written by the rich for the rich. I don’t trust them!

No the new district. No to the large vineyards pumping us dry. No to new vineyards.

I’m with you despicablame. And to Sue Loft I will no longer believe a word you say.

Everyone say NO to the water district, the little vineyards and small land owners are the ones who will have to pay for the water district.. Can you afford another tax. Why must we have to pay for it?