A bill to allow the formation of a Paso Robles groundwater management district is on its way to California Gov. Jerry Brown.
The state Assembly on Monday approved by a 51-4 margin amendments made to the bill in the state Senate.
AB 2453, created by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, allows the formation of a water district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin with a hybrid board of directors consisting of a combination of landowners and basin residents.
Monday’s concurrence vote was the bill’s final step in the Legislature. The governor has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law or veto it.
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In his remarks on the Assembly floor, Achadjian said the bill was the result of yearlong negotiations between two North County groups and has the backing of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and Paso Robles City Council. The hybrid board of directors will “ensure that all stakeholders in the basin are represented,” he said.
If the bill is signed into law, 10 percent of property owners in the basin have until 2019 to petition the county Local Agency Formation Commission to begin the process of forming the district.
“While the water district will be established by the San Luis Obispo County Local Agency Formation Commission, there will be a lengthy process for public input in order to assure the water district has the management authorities to properly manage the basin,” Achadjian said in his author’s statement to the Legislature.
The hybrid board of directors was the result of a compromise between the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions, a group of mostly vintners, and PRO Water Equity, a group of basin residents.
“We believe AB 2453 represents true compromise and shows what can be accomplished when members of a local community work together,” said Sue Luft, PRO Water Equity president. “We are encouraged and hope that this is the beginning of establishing management of the basin so that it is sustainable into the future.”
Jerry Reaugh, PRAAGS chairman, agreed. “This is very good for our county,” he said.
If formed, the water district will have the challenge of managing a water basin that covers nearly 800 square miles and is the primary supply of water to the North County. The county planning department estimates there are more than 8,000 wells in the basin.
Since 1997, water levels in some areas of the basin have gone down by more than 70 feet, causing hundreds of wells to go dry.
Property owners with dry wells must pay to have new, deeper wells drilled. Some have water trucked in.
“Over 300 wells went dry in a five-month period this year. Therefore, the need for this legislation is immense,” Achadjian said in his author’s statement.