Viewpoint

Paso groundwater legislation essential

June 2, 2014 

As The Tribune reported Thursday, AB 2453, legislation to allow a hybrid voting structure for a water district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin, was approved by the state Assembly. The bill is now headed to the Senate, and if approved, then to the governor for signature.

PRO Water Equity and PRAAGS (Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions) are the sponsors of this legislation. We are all volunteers and have devoted an incredible amount of time and our own money to bring this legislation forward.

For those of you who are not familiar with this issue, AB 2453 is a result of several months of negotiation and compromise. Our groups — as well as the Paso Robles groundwater basin Blue Ribbon Committee and others — recognized early on that a governance structure is needed to manage the groundwater basin. PRO Water Equity advocated for a structure that would give everyone a voice and no one control over the district board. We believe this is achieved with the “hybrid” governance structure that is provided in this bill.

Whenever a compromise is reached, some folks will be on board and others will prefer to stand on the sidelines and criticize. PRO Water Equity is working toward solutions that will lead to a stabilized groundwater basin through a water district that is locally controlled and managed.

Adjudication has been called a “proper basin management tool.” However, a judge who has been involved in adjudications called it a “blunt instrument.” The legal process can take well over a decade, the decisions take place outside of the public’s eyes with no local input, the results are uncertain and the costs are incredible. During the process, the basin would continue to decline. In the end, no solutions would have been put in place.

I have been a volunteer and a leader in several environmental organizations . My environmental involvement began in fifth grade and has continued throughout my entire adult life. When I learned that some environmental organizations were opposing this legislation — which allows for management of the groundwater basin and gives everyone a voice — I was astonished. We are facing an environmental and economic disaster if the groundwater basin is not properly managed. Why would any environmental group fight this?

I became involved with water issues on a local level because of my interest in the issues and my previous professional work. However, all of this became very personal when the water level in the well that serves our home began to decline and we reviewed the report on the groundwater basin that was released in 2005. The water level is now down 128 feet since the well was drilled in 1998. We drilled a new well earlier this year, after being on an eight-month wait list. The water level continues to drop, more than 20 feet so far this year. Many of our neighbors have had to drill new wells, lower their well pumps and/or truck water.

Without proper management of our precious groundwater resource, our ability to live and farm in this area will be greatly impacted and our property values will continue to decline.

A water district, with local elected folks making the decisions, is the best way to manage our groundwater basin. We can’t let things continue as they have. I am excited that progress is being made toward a water district that will be charged with managing and balancing the basin.

Please contact us via http://www.prowaterequity.org with any questions.

Sue Luft is president of PRO Water Equity.

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