No rush for Paso Robles water district board slots
December 9, 2015
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
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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