Bouquets and Brickbats

Two groups join forces on water use

letters@thetribunenews.comDecember 6, 2013 

Tim Teller plays Paso Robles’ Links golf course, which is adjacent to wine-grape vineyards, creating a scene of green irrigated grass and vines surrounded by brown hillsides in 2013.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

We raise our glasses and toss a generous bouquet of grape clusters to PRAAGS and ProWater Equity, the two groups that have been working on a solution to the Paso Robles groundwater basin crisis.

The two organizations began on opposite sides of the fence. PRAAGS, made up mostly of large vineyards owners, at one point advocated for a management district that would give more voting power to large landowners. Pro Water Equity, composed of owners of smaller farms, vineyards and residences, argued that system was inherently unfair. Negotiations led to development of a proposal for a hybrid water management district designed to give all property owners a voice in managing the basin.

The ability of the two groups to forge a compromise in a relatively short amount of time is nothing short of remarkable. By contrast, that makes the actions of property owners who filed a pair of lawsuits seem even more outrageous. Instead of allowing enough time to reach agreement on a management plan, these litigious property owners are insisting their rights to pump water take precedence over the general welfare of all who depend on the basin. And taking the county to court for putting a partial moratorium in place until a long-term management plan is developed is absurdly short-sighted.

We’re delivering a couple of barrels of drought-shriveled brickbats, one to vineyard owners responsible for the lawsuits, and the other to county Supervisor Debbie Arnold, who attended a meeting where the suits were discussed. Arnold told The Tribune it was part of her research, and pointed out that she’s attended several meetings of various groups of basin users. Fair enough. But attending a meeting where a legal challenge to a county ordinance is discussed — an ordinance that Arnold initially supported — raises questions about where her loyalties lie.

Chapman House a fine gift for Pismo

The donation of the $17 million Chapman House to the city of Pismo Beach is a magnificent gift from the late Clifford Chapman that benefits not only local residents, but also the many visitors from around the world who are drawn to Pismo Beach.

The oceanfront estate, with its expansive gardens and iconic miniature lighthouse, is a treasure. Opening it to the public, even on a limited basis, is an exciting prospect. As Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham aptly put it, “We have an opportunity as a city to allow people to go beyond peeking through the gates.”

The Pismo Beach City Council — which formally accepted the gift this week — deserves a bouquet of Christmas spirit for having the foresight to say yes. Accepting the gift means taking on responsibility for repairing and maintaining the buildings, gardens and a collection of art and sculptures, but we believe it will be well worth it to preserve one of the county’s most distinctive landmarks.

Morro Bay rife with controversy

Poor Morro Bay. We’re not sure whether to send the city a bouquet of sympathy or a briny brickbat for leading the county in number of controversies per capita.

Here’s the rundown: an embattled sewer project; the firing of the city attorney; the pending firing of the city manager; an attempt to recall the mayor; and now, an investigation into possible misuse of funds. Specifically, the State Lands Commission is looking into allegations that some of the lease revenue from the Morro Bay Power Plant improperly went to the general fund, rather than the harbor operating fund.

Stay tuned on that one. In the meantime, we’ll keep the bouquet on ice and the brickbat in a bucket of saltwater.

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