San Luis Obispo County supervisors decided Tuesday to move forward on an application to form a water district to manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin, excluding the Atascadero subbasin from the plan.
Supervisors agreed that there is a sense of urgency because a new state law requires that groundwater basins such as the Paso Robles one be sustainably managed. The law gave a deadline of June 30, 2017, for an agency to be in place to manage it.
Details of the district can be worked out when the county’s application gets to the Local Agency Formation Commission.
“We need to move on this,” said Supervisor Frank Mecham, whose district includes much of the Paso Robles water basin. “The application will have another hearing, and LAFCO will hold several of its own hearings.”
The supervisors said the district should be given all of the powers contained in AB 2453, the bill by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian that authorized the formation of the district.
The county Public Works Department staff will draft the application and bring it back to supervisors for approval in April before sending it to LAFCO.
At the hearing in April, the board could formally decide whether it will submit the application to LAFCO or schedule another hearing. Once the application is submitted to LAFCO, that agency’s staff will need two to three months to analyze it and schedule hearings for the commission.
Supervisors voted 4-1 to recommend that the Atascadero subbasin be excluded from the district. The subbasin includes the Atascadero and Templeton areas and is separated from the Paso Robles water basin by the Rinconada Fault.
About a dozen people urged supervisors to exclude the Atascadero subbasin. Jim Patterson, an Atascadero resident and former county supervisor, said the subbasin should have a separate groundwater management plan.
“We’ve known that Atascadero is its own subbasin for about 20 years now,” he said.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold said the Atascadero Mutual Water Co. has been managing the subbasin effectively for a century.
“We have a subbasin that is doing just fine,” she said. “They are doing an outstanding job. Let’s let them do it.”
Supervisor Bruce Gibson was the sole “no” vote. He said he wanted to let LAFCO make that decision.
“The reality is that we don’t have the technical basis right now to make that decision,” he said. “The right place to do that is LAFCO.”
Supervisors postponed making a recommendation about how the district would be funded.
The district is estimated to need about $1 million per year to operate. This money could be supplied by a property fee or a special tax, said John Diodati, county Public Works administrator.
Supervisors said they wanted to wait until they got more information about the funding options. The vote to authorize the funding could be held before, after or concurrently with the LAFCO process, Diodati said.