Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Management Plan

Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Management Plan

Two years ago SLO County adopted some portions of the AB3030 Groundwater Management Plan. The Blue Ribbon Committee is the advisory body for that plan. Next Tuesday, March 18, the Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider amendments to the existing plan. If approved, the County Public Works Department will hold public workshops in coordination with the new Basin Advisory Committee, other local agencies, and community groups to draft potential Plan amendments.

When: Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 1:30pm Where: SLO County Government Building, 1055 Monterey Street, SLO

Link to Board agenda
Link to staff report

What is a Groundwater Basin Management Plan?

  • Evaluates the conditions in the Basin
  • Establishes goals for the preferred conditions
    • ie: water level and quality to be maintained for beneficial use
  • Identifies actions necessary to achieve those goals, such as:
    • Monitoring
    • Conservation programs
    • Supplemental water projects
    • Other management strategies
  • Landowner and resident input is sought

Click here for more information on:

  • The existing Plan
  • Map of the Basin boundary
  • Outline of possible Plan amendments
  • Related Advisory Committee actions
  • Related previous Board actions
  • Basin studies

The Latest from Sacramento

Initial feedback from our legislators makes it evident that the special legislation to create a hybrid board of directors faces significant scrutiny in Sacramento.  The new petition for a water district will not be filed with LAFCO until the bill has been fully vetted by Legislative Counsel and we have greater clarity on how best to move forward.

We strongly believe that a locally managed water district is the best solution for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.

Response to inaccurate Steinbeck statement

From Steve Sinton:

Response to the Steinbeck statement

One would think that something as expensive as litigation would be founded on sound principles, rather than false accusations against your neighbors and fellow landowners.  Neither PRAAGS nor Pro Water Equity have ever suggested or supported the export of our groundwater to Kern County or anywhere else.  That is just a fiction created by Ms. Steinbeck to give her something to fight.  PRAAGS is not looking for a fight, we are looking for long term solutions to what we believe is a declining water supply.

Ms. Steinbeck has somehow completely twisted my presentation at the SLO Cattlemen’s meeting to make it the exact opposite of what I said.  The following is an direct quote from a supporting slide from that presentation that everyone (including Ms. Steinbeck) could see:

“It has never been suggested, nor is it logical, to sell local water to other regions when it is so desperately needed here.  However, to ease the recently expressed public concern, language has been added to the petition:  The District shall not export water from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.”

After that, what I did say is that if surplus water might be available in wet years from the State, the District might buy it and store it in Kern County so that we could bring it into the County in a dry year when the State Water Project pipeline had excess capacity.  Isn’t that the exact opposite of Ms. Steinbeck’s accusation?

The management of water banks and the marketing of water in other places has nothing to do with our focus on stopping our basin from becoming overdrafted.  Ms. Steinbeck’s litigation is contentiousness without solutions and will do nothing to help solve our local problems.  Her “proud belligerency” will do nothing to help us, and in my experience as a water law attorney, will drag on for years in the courts.  At the end of that, there will be no more water for us, but the litigation will generate nice revenues for her lawyers.

Her discussion of the right to surplus water is also just a distraction from real issues and solutions.  There is no surplus water here, but if a District were created and were to bring us supplemental water, it would be for the sole purpose of stabilizing, and we hope, to restore our groundwater to historical levels.

The Board of Supervisors can surely see through the misinformation being generated by POWR and should support reasonable people working hard for real solutions.

Steve Sinton’s family has been ranching in San Luis Obispo County since 1875.  He practiced water law for 20 years before returning full time to the family business of cattle ranching and growing wine grapes.

Open letter to PRO Water Equity supporters

Open Letter to PRO Water Equity email list
from Sue Luft, President, PRO Water Equity, Inc.
February 16, 2014

I am writing to you since you have been closely following PRO Water Equity.  Some of you first met as a group at my house in June, 2012. Since that time, our group has evolved into PRO Water Equity, Inc. We have spent an enormous amount of volunteer time educating the public about the groundwater situation.

I would like to recap some of the history and explain where the proposed governance structure stands at this point. This information has been provided in regular email communications; however, I thought it would be helpful to summarize it here.

Our history and the development of the Governance Structure

The mission statement for PRO Water Equity is:

To promote the health, safety, common good and general welfare of the community by advocating for the stabilization and sustainability of the Paso Robles groundwater basin for the benefit of all overliers.

In the many public meetings we have held, we have described PRO Water Equity as a diverse all-volunteer coalition of Paso Robles Groundwater Basin users who believe in finding a fair way of sharing the groundwater that belongs to all of us.

Initially, we thought that a court adjudication of the groundwater basin might be the best way to lead to a fair sharing of groundwater. Under California law, we do not own the water under our property; however, we have the right to the reasonable and beneficial use of that water. That right is correlative; when there is a shortage, the water must be equitably shared by all users. The court is one way to establish the pumping rights for all basin users.

We learned that an adjudication is a long, expensive process, that takes place outside of the public’s eyes, and has an uncertain outcome. In fact, the adjudication process is way more expensive than we could possibly afford. And, pumping would continue unrestricted for the decade or so until the court issued its judgment. Unrestricted pumping is what the people who have filed the recent lawsuits are hoping for.

The only reasonable way to manage and balance the basin is through a governance structure. PRO Water Equity evaluated various governance structures. After many months of review and public discussions, we determined that the best method of balancing the basin is through an independent water district with a locally elected board of directors.

In the meantime, PRAAGS – the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions – proposed a governance structure that would be controlled by five directors elected based on acreage. PRO Water Equity was opposed to this concept. We believe that all basin users must have fair representation on the board of directors.

PRAAGS was also focused on supplying water to the basin from supplemental water sources. PRO Water Equity recognized that some supplemental water may be available to the basin; however, that water is limited and would not be available to basin users for a number of years. We believe that the basin needs to be brought into balance by a combination of demand management and supply enhancement. The groundwater basin must be balanced.

Last September, Supervisor Mecham asked PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity to meet to see if we had any common ground, and if our groups might be able to develop a solution that would work for everyone. After weeks of meetings, disagreements, discussions, and compromise, our groups announced in early December that we had a suggested governance structure to present to the public. We further refined the proposed makeup of the board of directors during the holidays, and presented the final structure on January 6th.

Proposed governance structure 

We have proposed a nine-member board of directors which gives everyone a voice. No one person and no group of people can control the election. This “hybrid” voting structure requires legislation to modify the Water Code.

The composition of the board of directors is described here – http://prowaterequity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Special-Legislation-PRBWD-2.8.14-v1.pdf. A graphic of the voting structure is provided here – http://prowaterequity.org/voting-structure/.  More information is also provided on our website – www.prowaterequity.org.

The stated intent of the water district in the proposed legislation is to “balance the supply to and the consumption of groundwater within the basin underlying the District, and thereby pursue stabilizing that basin and sustaining its resources for the beneficial use of all who use water within the District”.

PRO Water Equity believes that the proposed governance structure meets our objectives and will provide a mechanism for managing and balancing the basin. Everyone’s interests will be represented – as long as everyone votes. We will need good people to run for the seats on the board of directors – look at yourself and your neighbors.

Where we go from here 

There are many steps ahead. In order for the water district to come into place, legislation needs to be approved by the State legislature. The water district has to be approved by LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), which will involve several public hearings and lots of analysis by the Commissioners. Then, there will be three votes that we as landowners and residents will participate in – to approve the district formation, to elect the initial board of directors, and to approve funding for the district.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will continue their deliberations regarding support for the legislative platform that will include the changes that are needed to the Water Code to allow establishment of the Paso Robles Basin Water District. Their support has been requested by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who may carry the bill forward in Sacramento.

The proposed legislation is posted at http://prowaterequity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Special-Legislation-PRBWD-2.8.14-v1.pdf. and http://agenda.slocounty.ca.gov/agenda/sanluisobispo/3081/RFJBRlQgU3BlY2lhbCBMZWdpc2xhdGlvbl9FeGhpYml0IEEucGRm/12/n/25151.doc. As you can see from reviewing the proposed legislation, very little is being changed in the Water Code. Basically, a hybrid board of directors is being proposed – which will allow all water users to be represented.

What you can do

Please inform yourself about the facts.  Check out www.prowaterequity.org, www.praags.org, and www.slocountywater.org.  Email us at http://prowaterequity.org/contact-us/ with any questions.

Please consider expressing your support for this hybrid water district to the Board of Supervisors via email, by signing the online petition (http://www.change.org/petitions/san-luis-obispo-county-board-of-supervisors-approve-the-legislative-platform-policy-statement-for-the-paso-robles-groundwater-basin?recruiter=8828905&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition), or by attending and speaking at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (beginning mid-morning).

Many unfounded rumors are being spread. This is to be expected when something new is proposed. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. I have been personally attacked in several venues recently. As you know, I am an unpaid volunteer who has been working 24/7 on this issue for many months – and has been involved with the basin issues for the last nine years. My goal is a stabilized groundwater basin to protect our property values and our future.

All of the PRO Water Equity board members are unpaid volunteers, who have contributed our own money to pay our water attorney. I thank those of you who have contributed to pay the attorney. I’m afraid we will be asking for a little more financial help, as our attorney has been involved in drafting the legislation – to ensure it meets the needs of all water users in the basin.

Once again, don’t hesitate to contact us via http://prowaterequity.org/contact-us/ with any questions. I firmly believe that this proposal is the best approach to governing our basin – and avoiding a long, expensive court battle.

Thanks so much for listening.

Sue