Water district opposition growing, may sink plan

September 17, 2015
David Church

David Church


A county commission pushed forward a proposal to form a Paso Robles water regulatory district Thursday while its top executive deflected assertions that more than a thousand letters of opposition have been kept from public view. The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) gave a nod to the Paso Robles Water Basin district’s concept and voted to put the plan before North County voters by an 6-1 vote.

Commissioner Roberta Fonzi cast the lone dissenting vote. An election may be set March 8, 2016, to determine if two-thirds of property owners in the potential district boundaries will approve a tax assessment to fund the district.

Each of the owners of property over the basin will have one vote, as specified in enabling legislation.

Opinion on the water district’s formation is widely divided, evidenced by the flood of speakers who appeared at the LAFCo meeting. About a hundred people attended the meeting.

The number of overlying property owners publicly opposing the district’s formation is undeniably growing, something LAFCo officials may have wanted to de-emphasize prior to the meeting: a thousand-plus letters were filed separately from the final staff report to commissioners.

Rancher Larry McGourty questioned the way LAFCo Executive Director David Church handled the letters:

“These letters are properly comment letters and should not have been filed separately. I fully expect that you will provide the commissioners with at a minimum a count and list of names so they have an accurate understanding that it is unlikely that this district will pass a formation vote,” McGourty wrote in an email to Church this week.

Church noted that the letters were available on the commission’s website, but McGourty replied that it was “not sufficient.”

“By now the count of these letters is in the thousands,” he wrote, “and it should be evident to (LAFCo) that opposition is already nearing a critical mass for a ‘no’ vote.”

North County landowner Julie McClosky told Church in another email, “This seems like an intentional act by LAFCo to dismiss the overwhelming opposition to the AB 2453 water district. It has a very strong appearance of impropriety. The people need to be made aware of these personal opposition letters, not just the commissioners.”

In his report to the commission, Church downplayed the protests, responded selectively to certain assertions, and defended the proposed taxing mechanism as not being “illegal.” He said the district is needed “to comply” with the state’s recently-mandated Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Opponents of the proposed district argue that it is not necessary in order to comply to state mandates.

County supervisors are split on the matter of the district’s formation, but that hasn’t prevented its staff from launching a veritable public relations program in support of the plan.

County Public Works Administrator John Diodati, who also serves as project manager for the Paso Robles basin water district formation project, outlined to commissioners a comprehensive, tax-supported “outreach program” that is being conducted to “educate” North County residents about the district plan.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a representative of the California Department of Water Resources stepped to the microphone to inform the crowd that the Paso Robles basin — as of this week — is in “critical overdraft.” That particular determination has remained an essential ingredient in the formula for a successful effort to create a district. A report explaining methodology used in developing the timely determination will be made public in the near future.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. to reflect the correct number of commissioners.



  1. pasodowny says:

    Trace this back to the beginning and you will see that reining in Paso Robles by restricting its water rights was the brainchild of Bruce Gibson. He has meddled enough, and this mess, like so many distracting messes he has created, shifts the spotlight from the troubles in his own district. One need only look to the water troubles of Cambria to know that Bruce is not minding his own store. Enough of Bruce. He is what is wrong with this county. He creates liability for the county and is a liability.

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
  2. 4paso says:

    LAFCO passes the motion 6/1 to allow people to decide if they want to form their own water district rather than have the state or the county manage their water.
    Why is the title of the article say “Water opposition growing, may sink plan”? That seems contrary to the results.
    Shouldn’t it say “LAFCO votes to let locals vote to determine if they want local control” ?
    That is what happened. Blackburn, your bias is so obvious as to make your reporting a sham.

    (2) 24 Total Votes - 13 up - 11 down
    • Jorge Estrada says:

      I’m all for local control, that means the team of attorneys, funded by the local budget, represents the local public at large, NOT STAFF! This would avoid having the public unknowingly supporting a surprize 10 or 20 years down the road, a time table that Gov often uses for their short term goals.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
      • 4paso says:

        I am interested in locally elected citizens managing the district. No lawyers. That will cost millions of dollars, take decades and will not get us any more water. A locally managed district can implement projects that will help supply. I don’t trust the County to do it and I sure don’t trust the State. I have even less trust in lawyers!

        (-4) 4 Total Votes - 0 up - 4 down
        • Jorge Estrada says:

          Law without Lawyers defaults to the best boxer, talker or taker. Within our civil world, they are a necessary last resort or first resort depending on risk.

          (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. obispan says:

    You North County hillbillies are going to get all your water stolen by the LADWP, Stewart Resnick and the Harvard University endowment because you need “local control” and not some supervisor from San Looey Nabisco voting on basin regulation. Fine, then form a one-person one vote services district like the independent CSD’s, no San Looey voters allowed! But no, you’re going to form a district controlled by the aforementioned parties. This will happen, they are going to bury the opposition with advertising. Relatively few people read or listen to alternative news sources like CCN, or KPRL/KVEC talk shows. Will the Trib or KSBY report that the Chair of the LADWP was posing as a San Miquel good ‘ole boy and praising the district’s formation? Hell no.

    (-2) 28 Total Votes - 13 up - 15 down
    • IronHub says:

      His name is Randy Record, and he’s chairman of the board of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — a virtually autonomous entity and the biggest water wholesaler in the world.

      (13) 15 Total Votes - 14 up - 1 down
    • HWTED says:

      That’s “git yer water stolt” San Looney flatlander! We prefer Mountainey Folk to hillbilly -how un-PC of you flatlander!

      Other than the butt of a joke, what makes you think anyone up here pays any attention to the Trib or watches KSBY? Ask Adam Hill if you don’t believe me.

      Those 1200 protest forms had over 2,000 signatures, we are well aware of what is going on. When this thing gets defeated and the tax payers are stuck with the $350,000 tab that should have been paid by the district proponents as well as the staff time “re-educating” the proletariat of the basin, even the flatlanders will be asking questions.

      (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
      • obispan says:

        Write letters of protest all you want, this is a done deal. Nipomo voted down the pipeline from Santa Maria, they built it anyway. SLO voters put a water reserve in the City Charter, the city council rescinded it and gave the water to the developers who paid for their campaigns. You think you can outmaneuver the LADWP, Stewart Resnick, and Harvard University? I think not. What is your advertising budget between now and next March’s election? Nothing? That’s what I thought.

        (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
        • HWTED says:

          You still think traditional advertising works? Please blow your budget.

          The basin will be adjudicated so lawyer up obispan, join POWR or get run-over.

          (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
          • obispan says:

            In answer to your question; Yes, I do. The basin should be adjudicated, like Santa Maria successfully was, but it won’t be. The ads for the district will warn of wasteful and unnecessary spending on lawyers and will be paid for by people who have plenty of lawyers, they just don’t want you to have one. The battle was over when Katcho decided to run for congress. That takes big money. Do you have big money to give to Katcho? Didn’t think so.

            (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  4. hijinks says:

    LaughCo is a horrible institution for cases like this. Only one of those members is elected to represent the people affected by this district. Why are the other unelected ones allowed to dictate what happens? This isn’t democracy, it’s bureaucracy.

    (27) 41 Total Votes - 34 up - 7 down

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