In recent public presentations, in various letters to the editors of local media, on local radio and during the Water Summit at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 14, Cindy Steinbeck has consistently said that adjudication is the proper way to manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin. If that is the case, then you could reasonably expect that basins that already have been adjudicated in California would be in a sustainable condition, or on their way to sustainability. The facts show otherwise.
The recently passed Pavley-Dickinson legislation will change groundwater management in California at the most fundamental level — through mandated local management of basins, with those in the most trouble having the earliest deadlines for a sustainability plan. The legislation includes a list of 26 groundwater basins in California that have been adjudicated and are exempt from further management, the idea being they are already being adequately managed by the courts.
A review of these 26 basins shows some interesting results that bring Ms. Steinbeck’s theory of the effectiveness of court management into question. Ten of those 26 basins are labeled as “high-priority” by the Department of Water Resources. This is the most severe level in terms of the lack of health of a basin.
An additional nine of those 26 basins are labeled “medium-priority” by the DWR, one step down from high-priority. It begs the question: If adjudication is the best path to sustainability, why are over 70 percent of adjudicated basins still in the unhealthy medium- or highpriority condition?
Here is the stunner: Eight of the basins that have a High-Priority rating have been adjudicated and managed by the courts for more than 30 years, and they still aren’t in a sustainable state. Mediumand high-priority basins not on the adjudicated list will have stringent management mandates with short time frames for reaching sustainability.
Adjudication is a slow, expensive process that pits neighbor against neighbor. All the money paid out is for experts and attorneys; not one dollar goes to solving the basin’s troubles, planning for the future or investigating and developing sources of supplemental water.
For my money, waiting eight, 10 or 15 years for adjudication to take place, during which time nothing is done to help the health of the basin, means an uncertainty that could stretch over an even longer period if the ineffectiveness of management by the courts in evidence now persists.
The basin can’t wait that long.
Laurie Gage is a resident of rural Paso Robles and vice president of PRO Water Equity.
Governor Signs Historic Groundwater Legislation
California is at long last leaving the Wild West behind when it comes to managing groundwater. We applaud Governor Brown’s signing today of four groundwater related bills. The Pavley-Dickinson Package is made up of three critical and far-reaching pieces of legislation that will positively change the face of groundwater management in California.
A key element of these bills is the understanding that management of groundwater should be done at the local level. These measures give local agencies the necessary powers, tools, and incentives to achieve local groundwater sustainability, while protecting property rights. The state encourages local control and will offer guidance and technical support, being a backstop when and if local agencies are unsuccessful in carrying out their groundwater management responsibilities. Objectives and benchmarks are outlined along with a timetable for executing a groundwater sustainability plan.
- 2017: Local groundwater management agencies must be appointed or created
- 2020: Groundwater sustainability plan must be adopted for all overdrafted basins
- 2022: High and medium priority basins not currently in overdraft must have sustainability plans
- 2040: Achievement of sustainability for all high and medium priority groundwater basins
We are gratified that the fourth groundwater related bill signed by Governor Brown today was AB 2453. This permits a local water district to be formed for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin with a “hybrid” board of directors, allowing local, flexible representation that gives everyone a voice while allowing no single person or group to control the board.
The question is no longer “Are we going to have a management structure for the basin?” but “Who will be the face of the management structure for the basin?” Who better than locally-elected people who live and work here, have a direct and vested interest in management of our common resource, and have the focus and accountability needed?
It’s time to rally behind creating a locally-managed water district with a hybrid board of directors for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. We have to begin the work of managing our precious, common resource. Our lives, property values, livelihoods, and ability to enjoy this beautiful place in which we live depend on it.
PRO Water Equity is pleased that AB 2453 passed the Assembly concurrence vote by 46 to 4. With this vote, AB 2453 has successfully passed both chambers of the state legislature and is on its way to the Governor’s desk for signature.
PRO Water Equity would like to thank Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian for authoring AB 2453 and for his perseverance while ushering it through the legislative process. We would also like to thank Senator Bill Monning for his support of AB 2453 in the Senate, and those in the community who have continued to stand behind this effort.
The hybrid board for a proposed Paso Robles Basin Water District is the heart of AB 2453. It was well received in Sacramento, with legislators recognizing that its unique structure gives everyone a voice, but prevents control of the board by any individual or group. We believe that AB 2453 represents true compromise and shows what can be accomplished when members of a local community work together.
Moving Toward Sustainability
We are encouraged by the passage of AB 2453 and hope that this is the beginning of establishing management of the Basin so that it is sustainable into the future.
PRO Water Equity is pleased to tell you that AB 2453 passed the full Senate by a vote of 29-3. Because it has been amended since the Assembly voted, it will go back to the full Assembly for concurrence before the end of August. If it passes the concurrence vote, Governor Brown will have the month of September to sign it into law or veto it.
The hybrid voting structure that is the heart of this legislation, has been well received by the Legislature and Governor’s office. We are hopeful that management of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin will move forward so that the Basin will be sustainable into the future.
Great Editorial Opinion by the Tribune. “We look to the state Legislature, the Board of Supervisors and LAFCO to keep the momentum going.”
PRO Water Equity’s Position on AB 2453
August 5, 2014
AB 2453–legislation which would allow a hybrid board if a water district is created for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin–has been significantly amended. The latest revisions have resulted in a bill which PRO Water Equity can again support. Creation of a water district will require broad-based consensus of the landowners in the basin, as well as the support of the SLO County Board of Supervisors.
Comprehensive groundwater management legislation is working its way through Sacramento via SB 1168 and AB 1739. This legislation will require adoption of sustainable groundwater management plans for medium and high priority groundwater basins, which includes the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. Local groundwater management agencies must be formed to develop and carry out these plans.If a water district is not formed, the County will be required to undertake these tasks on their own for the unincorporated areas of the Basin.In the absence of local action, the State Water Resources Control Board will be authorized to manage local water resources and water resource decisions.
PRO Water Equity supports the efforts in Sacramento to develop comprehensive groundwater management. We firmly believe that the Basin needs to be sustainably managed, and that a locally-controlled water district with the hybrid governance structure proposed in AB 2453 is the best solution for our community. This governance structure allows all residents and landholders a voice and prevents any group or individual from controlling the board of directors.
Assembly Member Achadjian asks Board of Supervisors to Weigh In
On August 5, 2014 Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian sent the Supervisors the final version of AB 2453. He requested individual responses as to if they wished the legislation to continue forward. PRO Water Equity sent the Board of Supervisors a letter urging them to support AB 2453.
Paso Robles City Council Renews Support for AB 2453
On August 5, 2013, the Paso Robles City Council unanimously renewed its support of
If you have concerns or questions about:
– AB 2453
– Management of the Basin
– Sustainability of the Basin
– Agricultural expansion
Please contact Supervisors Arnold and Mecham. As the two County Supervisors whose districts encompass the Basin, they need to ensure that the Basin is managed properly and remains sustainable into the future.
Debbie Arnold, email@example.com, 805-781-4339
Frank Mecham, firstname.lastname@example.org, 805-781-4491
If you have a dry well:
Please speak at the Basin Advisory Committee during public comment.
Also contact Supervisors Arnold and Mecham and copy all Supervisors, so they are reminded how critical the situation is.
Debbie Arnold, email@example.com, 805-781-4339
Frank Mecham, firstname.lastname@example.org, 805-781-4491
Adam Hill, email@example.com
Bruce Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Caren Ray, email@example.com