Do we need the proposed Paso Robles water district?

April 7, 2015
Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a proponent of the water district.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a proponent of the water district.


I learned long ago that before you can solve a problem, you must first identify the problem and secondly, the underlying cause of that problem.

What is the problem? The “problem” is dropping water levels in the Paso Robles Water basin.

What is the cause of the problem? The Tribune has stated that the dropping water levels in the basin is the result of the drought and over pumping. We all know that we are into our fourth year of drought but……..we’ve had droughts before and we evidently have recovered from them because the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has never declared an overdraft.

So what is different this time?

In my opinion, our BOS has chosen unrestrained growth over the common good. This growth, primarily vineyards, has resulted in more and deeper wells being drilled which has resulted in the over pumping. The BOS allowed this to occur while having thorough knowledge, not only of water levels dropping in the basin but exactly what areas would be hit the hardest by their actions. With the knowledge they possessed they could have controlled growth while actively seeking solutions to the very problems they were creating.

It appears to me that their actions were deliberate. So then, the “cause” of the “crisis” in the basin is the BOS!

Since the BOS has a dual role as the Flood Control and Water Conservation District (FCWCD), they had the authority, responsibility and knowledge to have taken appropriate action to avert the problems we now face. They could have declared an overdraft, resulting in immediate restrictions on purveyor pumping. But they didn’t. They showed they had the authority to take decisive action when they enacted the emergency ordinance in 2013. This Oordinance faced a legal challenge and survived.

The proposed water district (AB2453) is being touted as providing “local control.” The reality is that the bill provides no more “local control” than currently exists. It clearly states that neither the BOS nor the FCWCD will have their respective authority reduced by way of the creation of the new district. What this tells me is that the BOS will continue with their growth-at-any-cost agenda and the only “local control” the new district will have is to continually increase parcel assessments in their attempts to source additional water to “balance” the basin.

Additionally, the new district would be controlled by the large property owners, primarily vineyards. The reality is that they are operating businesses that require significant amounts of water. Without water, they are out of business. They will do whatever they must to insure they have water for their crops, and, as with the BOS, the residents overlying the basin will be taken for granted.

Who wins and who loses?

The BOS wins because they do not want to manage the basin, even though it is their job. The creation of a new district will enable them to walk away from that which they were elected to do. They have attempted to create the impression that they were caught off guard by the basin “crisis” and are working hard, on our behalf, to stop the bleeding. They will be dumping the problem, they created, on us.

The large property owners, primarily vineyards, win because they will control the “new” district. They will set and collect property assessments. Because they are businesses they can write off their respective assessments, as well as, increase prices to cover those assessments. They will feel no pain.

Residents, both rural and city, lose. Rural residents will probably have their wells metered. They will be assessed fees as dictated by the new water district management but they don’t have the ability to recover these costs as do vineyard owners. City residents will be required to continually reduce their water usage while paying ever increasing water bills…….just as they are experiencing today. This is where the pain will be felt.

So… we need this proposed water district?

We do not!

What we need, and have needed, is for our elected BOS to execute their duties in a professional manner with a focus on representing fairly all who fall within their area of responsibility. It doesn’t matter what political parties are represented. What matters is that they do their job.

Jim Olesnanik is a retired Corporate Group Financial vice president and small business owner. He has lived in Templeton for the past 12 years.

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We need this AB 2453 water district about as much as we need another Bruce Gibson on the BOS. AB 2453 has so many built in problems that using it to “fix” the basin is like trying to get an honest answer out of a politician – it just can’t be done. The rules require those who will get no benefit form the district to pay nearly 90% of the bills so the big water users that will bi in control of the district can reap the benefits and increase their profits. This proposed, private water district would also open the door to water banking. Every basin I know of that has been sold on the idea that their basin was in a crises and voted in a similar water district to get supplemental water are now absolute disasters because their “supplemental water” turned out to be “paper water” however, when the water bankers came back to get some of the water they banked, they made sure that they only took back high quality, wet, water to sell to their customers leaving the basin in even worse shape that it was before the district was formed to save it. NO! We do not need this water district, there are much better ways to manage our basin.

Francesca Bolognini

I certainly agree that it is easy for money to find “experts” that will back up whatever position will be profitable to them. There are prostitutes with PhDs in many fields. But my understanding of California law, stated to me by a person who made a career inspecting small water systems, is that whoever puts the straw in the ground first has the rights. In my opinion, this would not include the scenario where someone goes in underneath them and sucks the water table down and then up into their field. In my book, that is stealing. State Law. So where is the State when the law is being violated? Apparently turning a blind eye on the developement money and letting individuals with less money get screwed.

If the only way a person can make a living is to continue to overdevelope an area beyond the limits of the natural resources, they become more of a detriment than an assett to the community. It is a rare developer that lives with the consequences of his work. Or the adverse consequences to the wildlife, natural resources and people of an area that is transformed by money. Some of the assets are forever lost. People who worked hard in the North County to contribute to the community will be ruined. And when the water runs out for them the big bucks will move right along to the next opportunity to exploit and run. Most of the payoff for this will go to a select few, not the betterment of the community. The water they are depleating now from the deeper basins is probably thousands of years old and would take that long to recharge, making it a very precious comodity indeed. It is possible that when that is gone, the basin would remain low for a very, very long time. We should be demanding action at the State level to prevent further takeover of our way of life in this county. Before it is too late.


The big users of the Paso groundwater basin will simply shop around until they can find

“groundwater expert” who will provide “scientific findings” proving the GW basin

has PLENTY of water available.

This is what they have done in the past, and it has worked, so there is absolutely

no reason for them to change tactics now.