No rush for Paso Robles water district board slots

December 9, 2015

Irrigation pipeline being laid on billionaire Stewart Resnick’s vineyard near Paso Robles.


Days away from a Friday deadline, only six people have thus far indicated they will compete for nine open seats on a proposed Paso Robles-area water district board, a controversial proposed district which itself has yet to be authorized by voters.

More potential candidates likely will surface before the end of the filing period.

Two separate water-related questions will be posed to voters March 8 in a special election to determine the fate of the proposed district by approving or rejecting a new parcel tax to fund the district’s operation. If the parcel tax is approved, the election of board members to govern the new district would become viable.

The six individuals who had announced their candidacy as of Wednesday include two of the most vocal advocates of plans for the controversial district’s formation.

Dana Merrill, vice chairman of the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS) and owner of Mesa Vineyard Management, wants one of two seats on the board reserved for “large landowners” of 400 or more acres.

And Sue Luft, a retired engineer whose small group of district advocates joined forces with PRAAGS, seeks a director’s seat elected generally by registered voters within the proposed district boundaries. Those boundaries remain mysterious.

Also in the running is Randall Diffenbaugh, a farmer, who is after one of two available seats on the board representing “medium landowners” of 40-399 acres. Bill Spencer, also a farmer, has eyes on the second seat in that category.

Attorney-farmer Edwin J. Rambuski and Michael Baugh, a magazine editor, want to represent the “small landowners” of 40 or fewer acres.

District advocates, who pressed successfully for state legislation authorizing the election, claim the district’s formation will bring the Paso Robles water basin into compliance with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014.

But opponents already have rallied thousands of landowners to document their opposition to the district plan in petitions to county and state officials. Critics of the district say its formation will benefit larger agribusinesses, the largest vineyards, and other large volume consumers while harming the small farmer.

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  1. blackanchor says:


    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
    • just4fun says:

      Second to last paragraph; “Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.” An unfortunate State law that gives the authority to the State Water Resources Control Board to dictate how to manage our water if we don’t step up to the plate and put something in place that “achieves sustainability”

      (-4) 16 Total Votes - 6 up - 10 down
      • Jorge Estrada says:

        “achieves sustainability” as in letting San Luis Obispo approve new projects that will get their water from the same water source as the basin, The Salinas River, and for the overlying land owners of that basin, a new district is being proposed to control their use. We already have a Flood Control District that will meet the paper shuffle that the SGMA requires but our County Staff wants new jobs and a new taxe to fund a new district. We all know California’s history, taking water for use elsewhere and here right before your eyes the attempt to dry out the inland for coastal development is on the move cloaked with words like SMART GROWTH, SUSTAINABILITY and contradictory state laws. If Donald Trump attended the public meetings on this County Staff generated proposal, he might say no new radicalized local government. I on the other hand, being PC, would say, “come on ya’ll, lets protect America and preserve jobs in the private sector.”

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

          The Supervisors with their FCD hats on have done nothing for us in the rural areas. They all worked hard to make sure all the Naci water went to the cities and places south. I don’t trust any of them. Not one. They are all politicians and are more beholden to the cities than to us. Three want our water and our two can’t stop them. I want private citizens that won’t be drawing a salary who have wells on their property like I do to represent me. If we don’t get a water district it will be the State or the SLO County clowns!

          Speaking of clowns, Don Trump is one and a blow hard to boot that scares the life out of me. Ted Cruz is what we need. A true conservative who will uphold our constitution. The Republican establishment fears him more than The Donald.

          (-7) 9 Total Votes - 1 up - 8 down
          • Jorge Estrada says:

            Agreed, he is scary but that is the attraction for many. The smooth baby holding politicians have failed. So it may take a no BS executive branch to clean congress and afford the judiciary branch a reality check? I for one like what I have but 20 trillion in debt will certainly take it away.

            (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
          • Moderator says:

            No Ted Cruz or Donald in the Paso aquifer.

            The hot air would only make the drought worse.

            (-3) 11 Total Votes - 4 up - 7 down
      • phoenix.rising says:

        Water collection and storage is the solution. Notice it has been raining and no water collection. Only a fool keeps complaining and wants more government involvement when the obvious solution to our water crisis is WATER COLLECTION and STORAGE which our government has made illegal.

        The noose is tightening and the governor’s appointed Caren Ray was a far left reach into this county and has left an open wound that cannot be healed until Adam Hill is removed in June. Adam, Caren, Bruce and Frank took us here. It will take a 4 to 1 in the reverse direction on the board to clean up this mess. But we can do it and do it in JUNE!

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. Jorge Estrada says:

    Only nature can restore our water resources but the County Public Works Budget can restore our roads. As a taxpayer shouldn’t we fund what we can change or do we fund the attempt to create more taxes?

    (17) 23 Total Votes - 20 up - 3 down
    • just4fun says:

      Were it that simple, it would be nice. Unfortunately, SGMA tells us we will have the overhead. The question now becomes who will be most responsible with our money. Ever ask how much it costs the County to pave a road, vs you having it done?

      (3) 19 Total Votes - 11 up - 8 down
      • Jorge Estrada says:

        Yes, the buzz term today is SELF HELP COUNTIES. That means we counties will be getting less of the money that flows upstream thus new revenues needs to be created for Counties to help themselves. Things are evolving to mirror our local APCD or our local Water Quality Control Board. The mission is to go get more revenue from the customers to fund what the State and Feds are withholding. Water Districts, Air Districts, Traffic Circulation Districts, Fire Safety, on and on. No new taxes, just special district fees while the State and Feds take more too. Very painful to say but it must be said for those who are willing to listen.

        (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down

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