Supervisors pass on Paso water district plans to LAFCO

April 22, 2015

waterwarThe San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is asking a local board to approve the creation of a government agency tasked with managing groundwater use in North County’s Paso Robles basin. [Tribune]

On a 3-2 vote, the supervisors chose to send an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission in support of the proposed Paso Robles Basin Water District. If the district is created, the agency may assess a $2.10-per-acre fee on property owners in order to cover a projected $950,000 annual operating budget.

Landowners in the basin will have final say as to whether the proposed district is created. If LAFCO approves plans to form the water management agency, landowners will vote on the matter.

Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton cast the two dissenting votes Tuesday. Both Arnold and Compton expressed concern that landowners who do not support a water management district would be forced into one.

Arnold also said she is concerned with the broad and still undetermined powers the district would have.

A bill signed into law last year by Governor Jerry Brown requires government management of the Paso Robles basin. If a local district does not come into existence, the state can assume control over regulating groundwater use in the basin.

Supervisor Frank Mecham, who made the motion in support of the proposed water district, said the basin will be managed whether people like it or not. It is better to establish local control of the basin, Mecham said.

Supervisor Adam Hill said local control is the bedrock on conservatism. Hill and Supervisor Bruce Gibson, the lead proponent of the water district, joined Mecham in voting in favor of creating the agency.

Plans for the water district call for a nine-member board to make decisions on groundwater use in the basin. The board would consist of six seats held by landowners and three seats that can be filled by anyone who is registered to vote in the district.

If crated, the district is expected to encompass 7,293 parcels spread over 774 square miles.

The board of supervisors will now work with LAFCO to hold public hearings on plans for the water district.


I think Cyndy Steinbeck would be a great candidate for the next 1st District supervisorial race.


In it’s current form, the application asks the irrigated agriculture owners, that use 88% of the water, to pay 12% of the district costs while the residential owners and non-irrigated property owners, who would receive no benefit from the district, would be required to pay 88% of the district operating expenses. This vote also moved the Paso Robles Basin one step closer to becoming an extension of the Kern Water Bank. Only a “Privet Water District” can create a contract with the big water brokers that will allow paper water to be stored in our basin and real water taken out to sell to LA and San Diego for huge profits leaving us with even less water than we have now. Oh yea, I’m all for paying for the privilege of watching the rich get even richer while stripping away one of the few right I have left, the right to reasonable use of the water under my property.


Adjudication would have been better, as you’d get a water master and a smaller number of bureaucrats sucking Larry Allen-sized salaries. Plus adjudication would look at historic water rights customary to dry land farming and non-irrigated pasture. The newcomer water sucking vineyards would (justly) take most of the hit in reducing pumping to sustainable levels, leaving water in the ground for more moderate and reasonable small ag and home pumpers.

Chalk up another Mecham failure to land on the correct side.


Notice how quiet Frank Mecham has been in the North County, instead of publically pushing the water district. Once the Water District was revised by the legislature, he most likely knew that the two things people wanted, local control and not selling water outside the county, were both allowed in the structure of the Water District. Out of town owners can designate a local manager to represent them as a voter or board member, and out local county ordinance will be overturned in court if challenged by a board member who wants to sell water to another part of the state. Mecham has not owned up to what has happened to the Water District which will allow outsiders to eventually take control.


Adjudication is great, only don’t hold your breath. Look at Nipomo, look at Los Osos, two adjudicated basins.


Los Osos started adjudication in 2004 and it is still not done – that’s 11 years! Will there even be any water left when this gets out of court?

Who do you think wins when there are no rules – the little guy? Better go with the LAFCO option, it’s quicker.

Jorge Estrada

I was there, I saw the three ( let’s get this going, they’re going to do this anyway and if this fails I’m fine with the State making our choices) and then there was Madam Chair Debbie Arnold and Supervisor Lynn Compton both fighting for answers before the public gets stuck with an expensive process that creates no water while ratcheting under the umbrella of what is private, will come with a new cost.

You should have been there, people in the business of managing existing water districts quenching their thirst with words of support for the creation of a new district. There is no doubt that many of the supporters were all about resource management and some can’t wait to create more job security through managing the resources you paid for.

Thank God that two of our elected are not trigger happy for more government, are willing to ask the unaddressed questions, expect straight answers from staff and most deffinately want to hear from the public before moving foward with this costly process. Sadly, “The City Slickers” won this vote to explore the creation of more Gov, a newly created Gov within Gov, that will sell back to you, what you have already paid for.