Supervisors to let Paso groundwater ordinance expire
February 4, 2015
On a 3-2 vote with supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill in the minority, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors chose Tuesday to abandon an ordinance that restricts water use in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.
In 2013, the board approved and then extended an emergency ordinance that prohibits new residential or agricultural development in the Paso Robles basin unless developers or ranchers conserve an equal amount of water in the area through other efforts. Following Tuesday’s vote against extending the ordinance, the regulation is now set to expire in August.
Supervisor Frank Mecham supported the ordinance in 2013, but he joined supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton in voting against it Tuesday. Later in the day, Mecham relinquished his position as chair of the board and nominated Arnold to fill the role.
By the same 3-2 vote, Arnold became chair and Compton replaced Hill as vice chair. The change in board alignment signaled a shift in power away from Gibson and Hill, who have been part of a board majority for much of the last six years.
The supervisors’ vote on the Paso Robles basin ordinance came amid a larger discussion of water issues in the county. In turning down a proposed extension of the ordinance, the board also rejected a plan to apply the regulation to a groundwater basin in Los Osos and on the Nipomo Mesa, both of which county staff consider to be in overdraft.
Though the board rejected the ordinance extension, the supervisors are still working on a plan to create a water district that will regulate the Paso Robles basin. Last week, the board voted to send an application for creating the district to the San Luis Obispo County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which will decide the makeup and powers of the new agency.
Sate law now requires the formation of a water regulatory agency in the Paso Robles basin. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that calls for a hybrid district that is governed by a combination of landowners and district residents.