It took two votes, but the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday reversed a decision it made last week and voted to discuss extending a temporary emergency ordinance to manage the dwindling Paso Robles groundwater basin.
At an upcoming meeting, supervisors will discuss a longer-term temporary or permanent ban on new agricultural pumping from the basin unless it is offset by an equal amount of conservation. No date for the hearing was set.
Last week, supervisors voted 3-2 to not pursue a permanent offset ordinance for the Paso Robles basin as well as the Los Osos and Nipomo Mesa basins, which are also being overpumped. Supervisors Frank Mecham, Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton voted against extending the ordinance.
The key difference on Tuesday was direction to county staff to include options to make the offset temporary. That was the main stumbling block for Mecham, who said he wants to explore options giving the ordinance a fixed expiration date or allowing it to be repealed when the drought ends or a water management district is formed.
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“Once you put something permanent on the books, it can be hard to get it off,” Mecham said.
Mecham on Tuesday joined Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill to place the item on a future agenda. Arnold and Compton voted against it.
The item was initially discussed after Tuesday’s public comment session. Mecham made a motion to agendize only a temporary offset ordinance. It got no second, and Mecham withdrew it.
Later in the morning, Hill moved to put the item on the agenda with the possibility of making it permanent. Hill and Gibson said a temporary ordinance might weaken efforts to manage the basin.