Environmental group sues SLO County over well-drilling permits

August 3, 2016
Water pipes laid out at Hardham Ranch

Water pipes laid out at a Justin Vineyards and Winery property

An environmental group filed a lawsuit against San Luis Obispo County on Friday contesting three well-drilling permits the county issued without requiring reviews stipulated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The suit, filed by The California Water Impact Network, focuses on three drilling permits granted in April and June to Justin Vineyards and Winery, Lapis Land Company LLC and Paso Robles Vineyards. The permits, issued under a claimed “ministerial” exemption to CEQA, allow the three companies to pump groundwater from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin in quantities that are “sufficient” to irrigate commercial vineyards.

The lawsuit asserts the permits were in fact discretionary approvals that required analysis and mitigation of their environmental impacts under CEQA, including impacts on the basin.

“CEQA is explicit that large discretionary projects like this, projects that will have a significant negative impact on natural resources, must be subject to full environmental review,” said Carolee Krieger, the executive director of C-WIN.

Krieger also voiced concerns about the Resnick’s history in Kern County.

“Justin Winery, for example, is owned by Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the Central Valley’s largest pistachio and pomegranate growers,” Krieger said. “The Resnicks control a 58 percent share of the Kern Water Bank in neighboring Kern County which has greatly harmed its surrounding neighbors’ wells by taking too much groundwater forcing their neighbors to litigate.”

Krieger said the exemptions already have resulted in significant environmental degradation.

“Shortly after the permit was issued, Justin’s managers clear-cut hundreds of protected oaks for a reservoir that will be used in conjunction with the new well,” Krieger said. “They apparently view the permit as carte blanche to do whatever they please, environmental laws and public trust resources be damned. And this is just the beginning. Once the wells are pumping full-bore for the new vineyards, we’re likely to see significant impacts on the already precarious Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.”


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13 Comments

  1. just4fun says:

    One glaring problem here: none of the wells are in the Paso basin. 2 are west in the hills and one is in Cuyama.

    (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  2. Pelican1 says:

    Who are the brain-dead officials who granted the permits, issued under a claimed “ministerial” exemption to CEQA? The law needs to be changed to prevent this from reoccurring and those responsible should be held liable…and subsequently terminated..as.we don’t need or can afford crony capitalism.

    (15) 19 Total Votes - 17 up - 2 down
  3. Rambunctious says:

    “Environmental group sues SLO County over well-drilling permits”

    The headline to the story is wrong, it should read Environmental group sues the people of SLO county over drilling permits.

    (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down
  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    Size isn’t everything, small farms or large farms have their water rights within the same constitution. SLAPP suits work sometimes but are morphing into accountability for both sides.

    (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
    • L.A.RamsFan says:

      Mr. Estrada you are right, but doesn’t California own all of the water in the state while a California citizen only has a right to its use and not actual ownership? Doesn’t the Public Trust Doctrine state “…that certain resources are above private ownership and reside in the Trust of government for the benefit of the People.” Isn’t one of those resources water? And doesn’t that doctrine go on to say ” It is the duty of government to administer these resources to the highest public interest.” One question: How can a vineyard possibly hold the same value to “the highest public interest” as a families need for water?

      I don’t get it. But I guess I do; its a very good example of how money and influence again trump “the highest public interest”.

      (6) 18 Total Votes - 12 up - 6 down
      • Rambunctious says:

        “I don’t get it. But I guess I do; its a very good example of how money and influence again trump “the highest public interest”.

        So do fish…

        (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
        • L.A.RamsFan says:

          “So do fish…”

          You’re, again, right! In my opinion the “fishes rights” should be considered first, along with all the other forms of wildlife and wild vegetation that either reside in our natural waters or depend upon it for life. When man steps in to either “utilize” or “manage” or natural resources crap like this happens. Just look to the oceans fish population now being over fished to the point of that their population cannot be replaced through natural reproduction while unsustainable fishing continue all-the-while pushing many fish stocks to the point of of not being able to survive and possible extinction.

          The one water resource that most of us rely on in this state is the Colorado River and look at its condition! It once flowed all the way to the Gulf of California but now it’s over allocated to the point that’s its been more than 50 years since its regularly seen that happen. The Colorado River Basin is dead! Why? Because of our “mismanagement” and “over-utilization”!

          Our mismanagement of natural resources, especially water, has a domino affect on all life including ours. Adding that in with the influence that big money has on its use (vineyards in this case) the last domino to fall will probably be ours.

          (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
          • L.A.RamsFan says:

            One more thing Mr Estrada; every person who either buys or sips from a wine glass “vino” that is produced in this state just doesn’t give a damn about our future! Not one bit! As long as their palate(s) are satisfied and their image(s) maintained the rest of us can just go to hell…

            (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
            • Jorge Estrada says:

              This philosophical conversation has been played out with the Owens Valley and L.A. In this case the public interest to develop the coast down under, trumped the streams, lake and reasonable use of local water to benefit the growing public, thank you Mulholland. The choice is more housing infill or more agriculture? Sure some day there will be more infill unless we stop importing everything but until then the property owners need to perfect their rights to water so that the taking will afford reasonable compensation. Remember land with no water is cheap but land with water is valuable and property taxes are paid accordingly. Understanding that possession and the payment of taxes eventually ripens into ownership, in this state, you can figure out why negligence is to be avoided even if the other envious people don’t like it.

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

              I’ll drink to that with a nice Pinot from Paso….hiccup! (;x

              (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. smile4thecamera says:

    So glad someone else is up in arms about this!

    (19) 23 Total Votes - 21 up - 2 down
  6. Rich in MB says:

    Just another example of Ridiculous Lawsuits used as a Political Weapon.

    (-14) 36 Total Votes - 11 up - 25 down
  7. tomsquawk says:

    it’s all about free POM and Fiji Water

    (13) 23 Total Votes - 18 up - 5 down

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