Do we need the proposed Paso Robles water district?
April 7, 2015
OPINION By JIM OLESNANIK
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…..do 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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