Keep local control, vote no on Paso Robles water district

February 15, 2016

water moneyOPINION by DON WILSON

A recent article in The San Luis Obispo Tribune, regarding the issues behind the upcoming three-ballot vote on the proposed Paso Robles basin water district, was well done but did not make clear that there exists a very real and dangerous risk to the interests of the vast majority of the residents here in the structure of the “hybrid” board called for in this specific district formation ballot proposal.

Based upon attending numerous meetings and discussions over the past two years regarding the proposed district and how it should be structured, I have no doubt that some individuals will be voting “no” on the water district simply because they do not want to be told by “the government” how “their” water is used and/or do not want to incur additional costs of operating another governmental agency.

Those may be legitimate concerns, however, those people will lose in the end because the state has mandated that there will be a district in some form, not just here but throughout the state.

Personally, we disagree with those individuals in principle because their position is inherently selfish and disregards the rights and needs of their neighbors to fair access to water. We do agree, however, that this “hybrid” board water district proposal should be defeated with a “no” vote… but for totally different reasons.

The proposed “hybrid” board

Keep in mind that under this proposal there would be a board of directors, consisting of nine representative directors. Large landowners (over 400 acres) will automatically receive two of the nine directors, the medium size owners (41-399 acres) will also get two of the nine directors.

Keep in mind that both of these groups, medium and large landowners, are openly dominated by in and out of state big commercial agricultural interests and jointly their four directors will quite likely be representing their community of business financial interests. That is, the interests of only about 100 plus people, partnerships and corporations as reported in The Tribune article.

Residential owners, business owners and small landowners with fewer than 40 acres will likewise have two directors. The remaining three of the nine directors will be so-called at-large directors, voted on by all of the parcel owners within the proposed district’s boundaries.

Sound fair? Not when you realize that by winning just one of the at-large seats, the medium and large corporate landowners would together control the board with a majority of five directors on the board.

On the other hand, the 4,000 – 5,000 plus (the reported numbers have varied somewhat) of us who are the under-40 acre landowners, families with homes and business owners will have only two directors and would need to win all three of the at-large seats to secure a simple majority… which is not likely to happen.

So, what does this mean? It means that the by far largest majority of the citizens in the basin would have absolutely no say in how the water resources in the basin are allocated and used… and, yet, we would all be required to pay for it. Does anyone else see a problem with this?

This despite the fact that access to water is a life safety issue and a civil right, which should be reasonably and fairly shared by all. Under this proposed hybrid board, who would protect the rest of us? Would it be the  big ag interests, which have been for so long saying trust us? Guess who will be voting “yes” on the hybrid board.

Whether by state mandate, voluntary formation or just a sense of fairness, we will have and need some form of a water management district, but one that is fair to all the citizens living here, men, women and children. Not this one.

Other risks – Potential for water “banking” and water export out of county

If the risks outlined above are not enough to justify your “no” vote on the proposed hybrid water district, I suggest that you might also want to read Daniel Blackburn’s report in the Feb. 9 edition of CalCoastNews. It is well worth the one to two minute read, to inform yourself about what you are being asked to agree to in the upcoming vote and what the personal consequences could be for you and your family’s well being, as well as your investment in your home and/or your business.

In that article, Mr. Blackburn cites the findings of a recent article from the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal in which the authors conclude that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) — widely hailed upon its passage in 2014 — may create more problems in the North County than it ever solves.

The authors specifically cited the Paso basin, which they contend “is threatened by the development of water banking operations which function to replace groundwater resources with privatized, banked water that would undermine the public interest.”

“Backers of a plan to form a special ‘hybrid’ water district to manage the basin’s supplies have denied that water banking is part of their plans. But considerable evidence suggests otherwise,” Blackburn adds.

The issues and resultant risks of this proposed hybrid board scheme are becoming clearer and clearer as the high stakes politics and money interests step out from behind the curtain. Please vote “no.”

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Many don’t get to vote because of boundaries but if the district is created, the boundaries can change to include all the others. Even the election is rigged, just say NO and question the waste of public funds on this boondoggle.

I’m curious Jorge, who would you like to control the basin if you had any choice that you wanted (keeping in mind that the State mandates someone to control it).

It just seems so simple: SOMEONE is going to be IN CHARGE:

1. The District that you vote in.

If that fails,

2. The Board of Supes. (Do you like who they are and will future Supervisors follow your politics?)

If that fails,

3. The State of California.

In all three cases, you WILL pay.

Ask Nipomo how well their basin adjudication has gone. Or ask Los Osos how well their adjudication has gone. Ask them how long it took to do. And ask them both how much this has cost to adjudicate and what the costs will be in the future for having done nothing to fix the proble over the many, many years.

This is not rocket science. Ask the questions that need answering.

1. Who will most benefit from such a proposal?

2. Is it sustainable?

3. Is it without bias or prejudice?

4. Will it work?

5. Given environmental concerns regarding climate change, what are the potential impacts to the environment and the county’s economic structure.

6. What’s the affect with respect to 2 buck chuck wine?

All you have to do is ask one question: Why are all the big property owners (Resnick, etc.) paying hundreds of thousands to try and get this passed?

I would suggest you people get on the internet and just read about Resnick, Paramount, etc. See for yourself!

Very well written Mr. Wilson however there is one other point to keep in mind with the hybrid board. While the voters must fit into one category or another, the candidates can come from any category, they don’t have to fit the same qualifications that the voters do. If you look at the candidates, you will see that nine of the eleven are members of PRAAGS, PRO Water Equity or CALM. All these groups are united with a common goal so this hybrid board is just a smoke screen and would automatically be controlled by those who initially suggested and promoted the AB 2453 water district. And, you are correct that water banking will be in our future if this district passes. Thank you for doing your homework and going to the effort to dig out the facts.