Paso Robles water rights group files amended complaint

August 6, 2014
Cindy Steinbeck

Cindy Steinbeck

OPINION By Protect Our Water Rights

Concerns over sweeping changes to private property rights has brought tremendous support from the rural community for the Protect Our Water Rights (POWR) Quiet Title Action. The group filed an amended complaint July 31 in Superior Court of Santa Clara County, adding over 100 members and 7,000 acres. The current group stands at 250 landowner members and 12,800 acres.

Quiet Title is not a lawsuit, it is a request to the courts to affirm the right, already afforded by California law, to reasonable and beneficial use of the water under a landowner’s property. The courts will handle the claim, which has become a litigation of rights because those who sell water have claimed a prescriptive right to the water. The courts will adjudicate the basin, which simply means, make a judgment.

Adjudication is healthy for basins because true and accurate accounting of the water in the basin will be a direct result of the litigation.

Cindy Steinbeck, a founding member of POWR, is a fifth generation family farmer and owner of Steinbeck Vineyards in Paso Robles. She states, “Our group is not seeking anything over and above affirmation of our current rights under California Law. Our rights are under assault. If we cannot use the water then our land has no value. Our rural lifestyle and our community is at risk.”

About POWR: Protect Our Water Rights ( is a diverse group of landowners, concerned about property rights and water rights. POWR believes that standing strong to protect our rights will also serve to protect our precious groundwater. POWR formed very quickly after the urgency ordinance was passed by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. The group is made up of landowners both small and large.

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I guess you folks have never seen the Beverly Hillbillies? If own land what is under it belongs to you. That has been a fundamental right in this country since land deeds have been granted. This is really a pointless debate, what is next, the government can seize your land under eminent domain anytime they want your property?

Again, you don’t own the water under you. You have the right to extract it if there is any there.

Adjudication is far too fact and law based. The judge will judge fairly. The Resnicks et al are doing exactly what they did with the Kern Water Bank. Get the government to give all authority to a private entity they control. Note how quickly they dropped support of a water district bill amended to, possibly, stop plutocratic control. Or at least require them to devote a lot of money to campaign ads for board members. Their ace-in-the-hole in the North County is tapping into 100% total anti-government Tea Party sentiment. Question; If the water district is necessary to prevent government regulation why is Gibson supporting it?

There are no facts to support your premise. Let’s assume for the sake of argument a district is put in place. The district will operate under the same Water Code that the Flood Control District does now. This district will have nine directors elected by property owners and registered voters in the Basin. Only two directors of the nine are voted by landowners who own more than 400 acres. According to public records, Paramount owns about 750 acres.

Specifically then, how would any one landowner or group of landowners get together and convince the others to go along with such a scheme?

One landowner or a small group of landowners would have to buy almost all of the Basin’s 300,000 acres to have any hope of pulling this off. How again is this practical?

It is not suitable to bank water here. We are not Kern. If you think it is, you must prove this. Kern is owned by four water agencies and one water company. Our basin is owned by about 4,400 different entities.

Simple odds say that it would be much easier to influence three Supervisors or one Judge than nine of our neighbors who live and own land here.How about we start that conspiracy theory?

The supervisors are elected one person-one vote. Your majority of your nine folksy neighbors will be the chosen by a handful of wealthy individuals and with little regard for quality of life for the unwashed majority or sustainability.

Your statement that nine board members can elected by a handful of wealthy individuals is untrue.There are about 4,400 landowners and about 5,600 registered voters in the basin. Landowners that own 40 acres or less far outnumber the large landowners. Large landowners only get to vote for two of the nine board members. No group or faction can control the board. That said, there is a better chance that the three at-large board seats will come from the small rural resident population as will the two seats elected by those that own from 1 to 40 acres. Small landowners have a much higher probability of gaining 5 of the 9 seats.

Or….just keep on pumping it out until there isn’t anymore. I guess then we’ll all know the answer to the amount! Then where will water come from? This is all nuts!! those who know have to control the water or not (according to Sup. Arnold) this is all a hoax there is plenty of water under there….just who has the most/longest straw? People haven’t been real smart about protecting resources there are a million examples of draining the last drop from the earth, cutting down all the trees, fishing out the last fish……we all know how that works! I guess it could rain!! well, maybe.

oh, who owns the groundwater? is it here, is it over there? is it mine, is it yours? this issue is like a slow freight train coming. funny; we are calling on the gov’t now. the wealhiest guy i know is a water rights attorney.

we’re getting to that point.

According to what I’ve read there is no mystery about how much water is in the ground. Governments get to know, so the government needs to decide, not the users. How much water is there? Who has the answer? Arnold seems to think she does? Just wondering..

I’m afraid you have exceeded your granola limit, FV, you are making little sense

Cindy, you and others may live over the aquifer, but it is not yours or theirs…’s for the good of the whole. In these dire times, the good of the “whole” becomes the priority. The amount of water taken from the aquifer must be strictly regulated, every gallon accounted for. Residents, businesses, and agriculture all have a serious responsibility to ensure our aquifer is not overdrawn or depleted. Every user must be on a water meter so the water beneath us can be properly managed…….everyone will have to make sacrifices…….and some acreage may have to go without water until our water supply recovers to the point where we can live more comfortably, but still conserve in order to be ready for the next drought. Just because you can afford to drill deeper does not give you the right to take more from the aquifer while shutting other people out. Welcome to the new norm of serious water conservation and the Managment of what we have for the good of the whole….not just Cindy and her friends.

Hold on there kitty. As the law stands now, it is their’s. What you are advocating for is adjudication, which is what Ms. Steinbeck is asking for. You’re on the same page.

So Ms. Steinbeck is a “fifth generation farmer”… Farmer? Excuse me, denuding the land, fencing out all wildlife and covering the land with grapescape is not “farming’ in my book – it’s industrial agriculture. It destroys habitat and burns up water like there’s no tomorrow. Call her what she is – an industrial agriculturist. Or wine industry manufacturer.

And that pic – really? Posing with a glass of wine? Change out the wine for a joint – how does it look now? Party time! Really, folks, bottom line, say what you like about a wine and its ambiance, subtleties, blah, blah, it’s a get-high; you drink it, you get high…So how about we quit the glorification of alcohol production? (Answer: it’s big money.)

The problem with that thinking imo is you might be drying up your neighbors well so you can have water. And some property owners are trucking and selling their ground water to others counties.

I just got back from traveling up to Santa Rosa, everything is dry or dead but the hundreds and hundreds of acres of grapes. I think we need to think about the farmers who are growing our food who need water. I love wine as much as the next guy, but this drought is so bad I have to say I love to eat food more.

I think we need to make a decision state wide about ground water and the rights to it. This drought seems to be showing some us some issues we have not dealt with before.

Interesting that your lawsuit is in Santa Clara County. And wise. The SLO Co. courts are left-leaning, not exactly blind and unbiased.

Basin adjudication will become the norm until the state decides to step up and regulated ground water withdrawal. And so much the better. I don’t trust anything our Board of Supervisors is crafting regarding groundwater allocation in the north county, particularly since the first draft came from Bruce Gibson.