Thanks to the SLO Tribune for their continuing coverage:
PRO Water Equity and the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS) have each been working towards a governance structure to manage the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin which ensures that the basin is stabilized and sustained for the benefit of all overliers. After months of discussions, these groups of local landowners have been able to find common ground on formation and governance of a groundwater management structure.
We are pleased to announce that – through compromise – we have agreed upon a proposal to put before the public. We believe this proposal provides fair and equitable representation for basin water users and a structure that meets the long-term needs of the area.
The proposed water district would be governed by locals, have the ability to obtain supplemental water, and could implement water management through an AB 3030 management plan. Development of the district will involve working through the LAFCO process and via special legislation.
The proposed voting structure for the district and the qualifications for the board of directors are described below. We believe this voting structure will give representation to landowners of all sizes, including rural residents and agriculturalists.
Proposed Voting Structure for Board of Directors of District
- Seven member board, elected at large.
- Three directors elected by popular vote of residents (registered voters) living within the district.
- Two directors elected by small/medium-sized landowners – owners of less than (to be determined later) acres.
- Two directors elected by large landowners – owners of a total of (to be determined later) acres or more.
- Within each class (large or small), consistent with existing law, the initial vote would be based on acreage and thereafter would be based on assessed valuation shown on the last equalized assessment roll.
- Landowner votes shall be cast by one of the owners on the deed, a current trustee if the land is owned by a trust, or a designated officer if the land is owned by a corporation or partnership.
Qualifications for Board of Directors of District
- Board members must be landowners within the district and must reside within the basin or within the surrounding area (to be defined).
Community meetings are being held by PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity to describe the governance structure and to hear input from the public.
Great OpEd by the SLO Tribune regarding the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.
A petition for a CWD does not need signatures from the majority of landowners, it only requires signatures from owners of 51% of the land—very different. Over the Basin, the 36 largest entities own enough land to validate a CWD petition, making everyone else irrelevant.
Proposition 218 does not set guidelines for implementation of a water district. It is called into effect only when certain types of funding are needed.
Adoption of any kind of water district must be put to a vote of the people. The question is what type of vote? One vote per registered voter, one vote per landowner, one vote per acre of land owned? If adopted as written in the California Water Code, a CWD is voted on either by assessed value of one’s land, or by the number of acres owned—again, 36 landowners hold 51% of the land.
PRO Water Equity has been meeting with the Planning Department and other stakeholder groups. We have made recommendations for establishing a clear definition of vested rights that tightens the “in the pipeline” projects. Unfortunately, some in the Ag community have lobbied heavily to have very loose rules for vested rights. We are greatly concerned that the proposed language will ensure nearly all projects will be approved. A new definition will go to the Board of Supervisors for discussion and vote on November 26, 2013. If you support tighter restrictions on vested rights it is important to voice your opinion either at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting or in an email to them beforehand:
It is always helpful to have the public at these meetings. Voicing support for balanced representation on the committee is the only way it will happen. If you cannot attend, you can email your comments to: email@example.com
- PRO Water Equity volunteers started a public education campaign
- Weekly information table at the farmers’ market
- Neighborhood and community meetings
- Speaking at meetings for Rotary, realtors, CSDs, road associations, olive growers
- Guests on local radio shows
- Handed out hundreds of bumper stickers
- Got local, out of area, and national press coverage of our water crisis
- Worked to enlist public support for our efforts through Letters to Editors and letters to the Board of Supervisors
- Established PRO Water Equity as a force to be heard
- Prompted the conversation for an Interim Urgency Ordinance
- Spoke at the Board of Supervisors’ meetings
- Rallied the public to attend and speak at Supervisors’ meetings
- Petition signed by 1,400+ people
- Succeeded in getting the Urgency Ordinance passed 4-0, then extended for the full 2 years 4-0 (with one abstention)
- Continue to meet with representatives of Public Works, Planning, and LAFCO
- Continue to research the powers that a water district needs in an effort to get the appropriate type of district established that can stabilize and sustain the Basin
- Continue to meet with Supervisor Mecham and PRAAGS in an effort to find common ground on the proper governance of our basin
- Continue to fight for a district that will fairly represent all Basin overliers
More Community Meetings
We could not have accomplished so much without our supporters!
Many of you have gotten an invitation from PRAAGS to attend a meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13, to hear why you should sign their petition to adopt a California Water District (CWD).
There are many reasons we believe a CWD is not the best solution for our Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (Basin).
- The main powers of a CWD are to bring in supplemental water, and little else.
- It does not have many of the powers needed to manage the Basin as a whole, in order to stabilize the Basin.
- The votes to form a CWD are weighted according to how much acreage one owns.
- The votes for a CWD board of directors are weighted according to how much acreage one owns.
- There has not been a new CWD created in 20 years.
- Many existing CWDs are being changed over to a “one person-one vote” district.
PRAAGS has said that they don’t want to manage the Basin, they just want to bring in supplemental water. They haven’t said how the supplemental water would be used or whether it would all go to increase agricultural irrigation. PRO Water Equity believes that the Basin needs to be managed as a whole, to stabilize the groundwater level and keep the Basin sustainable.
While supplemental water could be an important part of that, no one knows how much—or how little—will be available. In any case, delivery of supplemental water is many years away. If there is not enough to meet our needs, a water district must have the powers to slow demand. It’s the same as a bank account: if you take out more than you put in, you run out.
PRAAGS has said they believe that those who are going to pay the most should be in charge. PRO Water Equity believes that everyone whose life and livelihood depends on the Basin should have a fair and equitable say in what kind of water district is put in place and in choosing its board of directors. We do not believe it is fair for the few to control the destiny of everyone who uses the Basin.
According to agricultural records for vineyards, there are over 300 entities who farm under 100 acres, less than 60 entities with between 100 and 1,000 acres, and 6 entities (most of whom are from out of the area) who farm over 1,000 acres. We understand that approximately 36 entities own over 50% of the land in the proposed district. In contrast, there are approximately 6,400 occupied parcels, and probably over 20,000 rural residents. The vast majority of the basin landowners each own less than 100 acres – however, they would have virtually no say if the votes are based on acreage.
CWDs were originally created for areas that were primarily agricultural with few rural residents. That does not fit the needs of our Basin population. PRAAGS has suggested adopting their petition for a CWD and making changes to it after the fact. PRO Water Equity believes that we should adopt the water district that meets our needs from the beginning.
We have been researching the powers of different types of water districts. Through special legislation and the powers of a robust AB3030 plan, a groundwater management structure can be established that meets the needs of our particular situation. We are working hard to ensure that an appropriate groundwater management structure is put in place.
PRO Water Equity believes that the groundwater management structure must provide fair and equitable representation of all Basin users. We believe that control of our water resource must be local – not by large, out of area entities.
Before signing anything, make sure you know exactly what you are signing.
We look forward to continued discussions with all stakeholders.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
The California Report on KQED public radio has a segment on the Paso Robles groundwater issue.
Excellent articles today:
Congratulations is due to the SLO Tribune for winning top state journalism award for their series ‘Wine and Water’.
Press Release – 10.10.13
PRO Water Equity is pleased that the Interim Urgency Ordinance has been extended for the full two years. This is a much needed “time out” to slow further depletion of the groundwater basin.
Supervisor Mecham has facilitated meetings with PRO Water Equity and PRAAGS. Progress is being made in bringing our different perspectives together. While we agree on the basic powers and authorities of a district, the governance structure is the main point of contention.
PRAAGS favors a district board of directors controlled by those owning the most land. We believe that the election for board of directors should be a one vote per resident or one vote per parcel election.
We will continue to meet with our supporters and other stakeholders with the goal of reaching a consensus on a Basin governance structure that can manage and stabilize the Basin, one that fairly represents all Basin users. We are hopeful that a structure can be devised that will satisfy the various points of view. At some point all overliers will need to weigh in on what kind of management structure should be adopted.
From the onset, PRO Water Equity has advocated for a stabilized and sustainable basin, managed in a fair and equitable manner for the common good of the community and all Paso Robles Basin overliers. The water belongs to all of us.