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.