Over the Hill

Paso Robles water basin management district is necessary

Special to The TribuneFebruary 20, 2014 

Phil Dirkx

Not everyone likes the system of government that’s been proposed for the planned Paso Robles groundwater basin district. The vote was 3-2 Tuesday when the county supervisors approved it. And it’s a compromise, which means everybody gave up something.

Our assemblyman, Katcho Achadjian, will introduce the basin proposal in the state Legislature for consideration. It includes a compromise to settle a dispute over electing the district’s nine-member board. Large landowners wanted one vote for each acre owned. Small landowners wanted one vote per parcel or per person.

The compromise prescribes four separate elections: one for “large landowners,” one for “medium landowners,” one for “small landowners,” and one for the district’s registered voters.

Each of the three “landowners” elections will be for two directors. The registered voters will elect three. The “landowner” voters get one vote per acre owned. The registered voters get one vote per person.

That compromise was worked out with the leaders of two organizations that originally opposed each other. But state legislators may still discount the supervisors’ 3-2 vote especially since one “no” vote came from a supervisor whose district includes part of the basin.

I, however, hope the Legislature acts quickly. The underground water basin needs management, especially during this drought. The current water problems prompt me to respect those officials in my hometown, Paso Robles, who committed our city in 2004 to buy 4,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Nacimiento Pipeline Project.

It now comes in handy. Unfortunately, a small group of people stubbornly fought for years to prevent the necessary water rate increase. They eventually failed, but did stall construction of the required water treatment plant. It will finally be ready next year.

But the city already uses some of its Nacimiento water. It is released on Salinas River sands near a well field in southern Paso Robles. Seeping through the sand purifies it. Then enough of it is recaptured by the nearby wells to offset the drought deficit.

Nacimiento Lake belongs to Monterey County, but our county has the first rights to 17,500 acre-feet of its water each year. Paso’s annual 4,000 acre-feet is part of that amount.

On Tuesday, Nacimiento Lake contained only 21 percent of its capacity, but that still amounted to 80,050 acre-feet. That was 20,000 more than the combined totals in the county’s three other major lakes. If the Paso Robles groundwater basin district succeeds as well as the Nacimiento Project has, more people will like it.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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