County should manage Paso Robles groundwater basin

October 10, 2014


There’s lots of talk out there but you may be wondering what’s up with the future of groundwater management in the Paso Robles water basin. On October 14 the supervisors will be deciding if they want to apply to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to form a water district based on Assemblyman Achadjian’s special legislation AB 2453.

Paso Robles Ag Alliance for Groundwater Legislation (PRAAGS) and Pro Water Equity (PRO We) are the original sponsors of the legislation but now they are lobbying to have the supervisors form the separate nine director special district. According to the staff report for the Oct. 14 hearing, the estimated cost for the County to apply to LAFCO for an AB 2453 district is $350,000.

There is no guarantee that a district will be formed after the county invests in the LAFCO process. The formation and funding of the district will be decided by a vote of landowners.

There is going to be some form of groundwater management over the Paso Robles basin and in the whole state. Groundwater management will be based on recently passed state legislation collectively known as the Groundwater Sustainability Act. Statewide, basins will be managed locally by groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA).

The Paso basin can be managed by the supervisors as the Groundwater Sustainability Agency. The alternative is for the supervisors to form a new AB 2453 district and this additional layer of government could then act as the GSA.

Recently I co-authored a letter with the local chapter of the Sierra Club to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors recommending that the county become the groundwater sustainability agency. This is the preferable alternative to having the supervisors invest resources and considerable money to apply to LAFCO for a new water district.

The supervisors should declare the county to be the groundwater sustainability agency and take on the challenges and opportunities of sustainably managing the Paso basin.

Susan Harvey has lived in the North County area since 1975. She is the president of North County Watch.

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Donkeyhoti, so you use a name that reflects your self-absorbed perception of yourself, Don Quixote de la Mancha. So you view yourself as “The Don”, a well-meaning Spanish nobleman with a, shall we say, limited grip on reality. You are delusional. Here are some facts, there are roughly 7,500 residents within the affected watershed, thus approximately 3,000 homes, but more meters than that. Each meter will cost roughly between $650 to over $2000 to set, depending upon size and VC. At the low end this totals nearly $2,000,000 so the numbers you cite are bogus and reflect your delusional misinformed position. However, if they elect to install AMI technology then the cost is significantly more. Next you will have to have the manpower to read those meters annually. At a minimum because of windshield time, coordinating access with landowners it will require 2 full time meter readers, plus associated equipment. The District will need a General Manager, a secretary, at least one PE, a PG and various other associated staff. To cut to the chase in one county in Colorado where a District was formed the cost is just over $3.5 million a year and this number was expressed during the meetings in Sacramento. So Donkey Hoti do the math.

Simply if the County or our elected leaders wanted to better manage our most precious natural resource they would have adjusted the General Plan to match existing environmental regulations, including US Army Corp and Fish and Wildlife regulations. This could have all been done with minimal cost and would have reflected what the County of Napa and Sonoma both did 25 years ago. The plan here is simple and if you read all the supporting documents to AB 2453 that you quote erroneously you would know that the move is about a reallocation of water resources for “higher beneficial uses”. The concept of “Higher beneficial uses” give local agencies and the state the right to redistribute that resource to any and all agencies for human consumption. The MWD, along with the State has viewed the basin for 25 years as a significant option to store water for “higher beneficial use”. Storing water underground eliminates evaporation which is simply money lost. Atascadero Water District got in trouble and lost several lawsuits for over drafting the water table after acquiring out lining ranches, thus they had to reimburse any increased costs to affected landowners. The plan is simple draw the basin down to redistribute water to communities during dry years, pump water into the basin during wet years via the existing pipeline that goes through Shandon towards SLO City. What is not expressed in the legislation is that: (1) pumping cost will go up, since the basin will drop, (2) the cost to monitor septic systems since we know that these systems pollute ground water as in Los Osos, (3) for potable usage individual property owners will have to have an individual water treatment system which they will have to pay for themselves and the list goes on and on. As water tables drop, POC’s and CEC’s increase per ml. In addition, ground water replenishment always introduces new pollutants to a water table.

Lastly, this is not a move to better manage the basin for the benefit of individual property owners. This commandeering of property rights will ensure that more development can occur within local agencies and long-term will eliminate the small farmer which will benefit Agri-business.

By the way, Donkey Hoti the fact that you are using a trademark name reflects your arrogance. You are infringing upon other’s rights, thus a theft. I have passed your misuse of the name onto the appropriate corporation and expect that you will soon be served notice. Enjoy the rest of what you limited financial resources will allow.

There are about 4,400 property owners in the basin. Under the new Pavley-Dickinson laws, individuals will be responsible to pay for and install new meters. I wouldn’t be surprised if the State would have funds available that either the FCD or new water district could apply for to help offset the costs.

I encourage you to attend the County meetings or the LAFCO sessions were the estimates will be developed to meet these new laws. Make your voice heard if you don’t agree with their estimates. Again, they are their estimates; not mine.

The Urgency Ordinance limits new wells and plantings. Some say it’s not working while others say it goes too far. The County is working on implementing a permanent ordinance and hearings are being held all around the County by the Resource Conservation District office. The Board of Supervisors will hear this proposal soon.

We cannot conserve our way out of this. The latest basin model update has just been published. The report shows that the basin has been in overdraft for a number of years. The outflows have exceeded the inflows during the past 30 years by approximately 2,500 acre-ft/yr on average.

We need to look at supplemental supplies. The two most obvious are Naci water and the City’s recycled water that could be used up by the airport to recharge that area. Not a perfect solution but far better than the FCD has done for our basin over the last 40 years.

With regard to water rights, we should all make sure they are protected. These new laws say they respect existing water rights; their words, not mine. The point however is we must cooperate with each other or those rights will be in further jeopardy. You might want to refer to the recent rulings in Light v. SWRCB and Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board in Siskiyou County. These two rulings could become severe body blows to Quiet Title adjudications not only here but throughout the State.

All of this suggests someone will need to manage this resource. Our choices are simple; a water district or the County FCD. Doing nothing is no longer an option, but I repeat myself.

The government shouldn’t manage anything, especially water. Look at the water crisis in the Central Valley, which is politically caused. Water is diverted to the delta to save the smelt, at the expense of farmers and livelihoods in the Central Valley. Again, government shouldnt manage anything. I cringe at the idea of the government getting power over the water basin in Paso.

Toryrand, you have bought entirely into the partisan chant regarding the state’s import policies. The Delta was in place long before clever manipulators began to eye it for water transfers to central and southern California. The Delta smelt was around before Resnick’s water-wasting pistachio orchards sprouted. The smelt is critical to the survival of the Delta’s rich resource of anadromous fish like salmon, steelhead, striped bass, sturgeon and others. The idea that a “Congress-made drought” has occurred in the Central Valley is pure poppycock. That State Water Project water was provided at fire-sale prices to farmers for decades. They reaped the subsidized fiscal benefit for a generation, and they always knew that when supplies were short, ag’s subsidized deliveries would reduce. That was fine as long as they had water. Now that it’s dry in the state, the nut farmers are crying the blues. Learn the facts before spouting your politically-driven drivel.

leftiststub, so you made my point. the crisis is politically caused. thank you.

You have no point. The appropriation and transfer of water is apolitical — he who has the money and the power gets the water. And your last comment is elucidating. (Look it up.)

Will those who want a north county water district formed please tell me why the cities of Atascadero, Templeton, and Paso Robles should not be included in the district? Those cities draw water from the Salinas river as well as the Paso Robles ground water basin and any equitable solution for the overdrafting of the basin must include all principals. I am at a loss to understand why only rural well owners are the target of AB 2453.

Additionally, Kacho’s original bill was three pages and the final version, signed by the Governor, is 15 pages or more depending on the font size. The first bill was simple and fairly straight forward while the final bill is complex and draconian in many ways including possible criminal charges for violation of district rules, etc.

Rather than allowing the citizens of the target district to petition LAFCO based on their concepts of how the district should function, etc., the final bill allows the Board of Sups to outline the formation of the district and petition LAFCO directly. Is there anyone who thinks that the Board of Sups will design something fair and equitable to all of us? If so I would like to hear why you have faith and confidence in Gibson, Hill, and Ray.

County planners and some of the Sups have long wanted to impose their will on those of us who enjoy a rural lifestyle by restricting our property rights. Is it any wonder then that they are taking the lead in designing the water district authorized by AB 2453 since it plays right into their hands?

If you have not read AB 2453 I encourage to do so.

The cites are in affect their own water agencies. Under the recently enacted Pavley-Dickinson laws, they are classified by the State as being in the basin so they are required by law to work with the other agencies in the basin. They will do this through Joint Power Agreements with either a water district or the Flood Control District.

If you were to take the time to compare the powers and authority in the Pavley-Dickinson laws to those in AB 2453, you will find they are virtually identical. Meters, monitoring, limits on excess pumping are in both. Consequently they are equally as draconian to use your term.

Four of the 5 Supervisors have repeatedly said they do not want the Flood Control District to manage the Paso basin. How clearer can they make it? It is their job then to get the proposed district before LAFCO so the property owners can decide who they want to implement these powers; not them. How then is this a big plot by the Supervisors to grab your property rights?

I understand the Joint Powers process. My point is that unless Paso Robles is in the district the reality is that there will not be adequate restraint placed on them to the detriment of the rest of us. City Manager Jim App has said that Paso Robles has no interest in participating in a water district, but to my knowledge he has not said publicly that the city cannot participate if it wished to do so.

The reality is that Paso Robles will continue to build large hotels and subdivisions unless constrained by countervailing force. I have no confidence that Pavley-Dickinson (which I have read) will provide this.

Those of us in the rural area are already living with constraints on water under the Board of Sups moratorium ordinance while the City of Paso Robles goes merrily down the path of high consumption water development.

As to the majority of the Board of Sups – the creation of a water district simply plays into their political hands in terms of limiting our property rights in the long term.

Equity requires that while we in the rural area are to be constrained, that the growth within the City of Paso Robles be constrained also.

+ rep

Do you think that anyone who knows you will believe what you are saying? Seriously?

You consistently publicly criticize the Board of Supervisors. You are currently in a lawsuit against the County. You, through North County Watch, has sued the County numerous times. Yet you say that it would be better for the County BOS run the water district than a local elected group of stakeholders?

Who are you trying to fool?

I smell a rat.

All this talk about management and yet I see no idea of how to manage water,everyone seems to be worried about who will manage it,I also don’t want to see the county sups manage anything all they seem to do is foul things up,but all that aside how will water be managed,and I’m sure it all comes down to meters installed on pumps,will this be for all county residents or just the effected in the Paso area,if meters are imposed on us,who pays,I’m not going to I don’t need or want a meter and is Ca looking to collect monies for water used,here again I’m not paying for another buracratic boondogle, so whats the fine line for all of this.

Meters may be required for wells in the Paso Basin only; not the rest of the County. It will be up to either the FCD or the new water district when or if they are required. Those excluded would be well owners who use 2 acre feet of water or less per year. Well owners would be required to pay for their own meters. Costs associated with reporting or paying for water in excess of allocated amounts will be charged by and paid to the agency who winds up managing the basin. It does not go to the State. This is all spelled out in the new Pavley-Dickinson laws. We can’t manage what we can”t measure.

I will not pay for a meter on my well. I have paid all expenses: electric, 2 pump replacements, and property tax in my 30 yrs of ownership. I grow no crops other than a home veggie garden and a few fruit trees. No! Absolutely no, I have not abused and I will pay for nothing else.

til they come for you with guns……pay my salary!

Ms. Harvey, you are categorically wrong that rural residents will pay a disproportionate share of the district costs and you know it. A landowner who owns one or two acres will pay about $50 to $75 per year versus a 100 acre vineyard owner who would pay about $1,500. You also know that 3 of the 9 water district board members will be elected by registered voters, not by acreage which means that thousands of rural residents will be able to outvote a few hundred big landowners. You know too that the 0 to 40 acre category who will be represented by 2 board members are mostly rural residents and will most likely elect 2 people that share the rural resident view. So it is far more reasonable that rural residents could control 5 of the 9 seats on the board. There is no way a few big landowners can control the board and you know that too or you would have provided facts to show how they would do this.

You know too that under the new laws you site, costs for running the basin will be passed on to the overliers whether it’s the Flood Control District or a water district. You want the County bureaucracy to do this. Why do we want our money to be controlled by Hill, Gibson and Ray who can outvote Debbie and Frank that represent us? Do you really think they would not take some of these funds to run their bureaucracy? If we have a water district, all of it would stay here to run our basin and would not be siphoned off to SLO.

You also neglected to mention that you, being part of the Quiet Title law action will eventually sue me and every other of your fellow landowners in the basin. You and your group will be directly responsible for pitting neighbor against neighbor. You want to be able to continue to pump as much as you want whenever you want. An odd position for an avowed environmentalist. You also know that under the new State legislation you cite, the Cities must now cooperate by law with everyone in the basin so that it becomes sustainable. The cities are no longer the boogeymen so that argument is now moot.

Why again do you trust the Supervisors more to decide the fate of our groundwater than your fellow landowners? Your bias in wanting the FCD to continue to ineffectively run our basin while your lawsuit inches along through the justice system is revealing.


Interesting point of view. Water districts have been formed throughout California’s history and people fought them tooth and nail when they realized that it is about power and control. All one has to do is look at the state of Colorado to realize that this is power grab pure and simple to gain control of a valuable privately owned assets so that local governmental agencies can throw their straw into the pond and suck it dry. Rural residents will have a vote, just like urban residents. There are more urbanites than rural residents, so the math is simple who will control the vote. Also, all it takes is one morally bankrupt leader that is voted in to sell us all out. The dollar figures you “cite” are ludicrous – just do a little research and do the math. The cost to manage the district is far more than $50 or $100 per property owner based upon acreage.

But you are right, we can not trust the supervisors in managing the water district. Time will show you what the plan was all along and it wasn’t big property owners and/or future water barons. The behind the scenes dealings came from the local agencies via their puppets – our supervisors and Katcho. In a couple of years, both of you will realize what just happened. By the way, I sat in on many of those meetings in Sacramento and listened carefully to who Katcho had been speaking with – reps from every agency in north county at SLO.

You may want to carefully read the new legislation signed by Governor Brown. This is Pavley-Dickinson, not AB 2453. So for the first time in history the State regulates groundwater pumping in basins like ours. The law now says get together locally to sustainably manage your groundwater resources or we, the State will step in and do if for you. Power grabs by greedy landowners made for good movies but that is in the past.

These new laws give powers to the agency controlling our basin to require meters and reporting, set limits on pumping and impose fines for exceeding these limits. Our choices are simple, form a water district where we will elect people that we should know to implement these new powers or continue to allow 3 South County Supervisors to impose these powers on us. They will always act in their own self interest and the interests of their districts that don’t care about us in the North County. This will always be to our detriment.

The County is currently working on an engineering study to determine the cost of running the district. They have looked at other district cost structures that would be similar to ours. Preliminary annual estimates are anywhere from $1,200,000 to $1,700,000. Taking the average that would mean that range land would be assessed at about 50 cents per acre and irrigated ag would be about $15 per acre. Rural residents from 1 to 5 acres would get the under $100 flat fee. So yes, I have done the math and there is a large consensus of knowledgeable people that confirms we will be around the numbers I referenced.

“Power grabs by greedy landowners made for good movies but that is in the past.”

LOL, what are you, 8 years old?!? The naivete of some adults never ceases to amaze me.

Let me know when we achieve Utopia, I’d love to see it…

There’s never been a law written that money can’t circumnavigate.

Thanks for the well reasoned and thoughtful reply. You have seen my opinion all over this subject for the last few days. Someone will manage, or control if you will, our basin. Whom do you want this to be? Nine people we should all know or 5 Supervisors; 3 of which can outvote our 2? If we can’t decide between these 2 options, the State will do it for us. These are our only choices.

I say let’s all of us property owners get together and figure this out. I trust the majority will come to the right decision.

Then what would prevent south county exporting north county water? They’ve done it with Santa Margarita lake. Just outvote us and take. Nope