Just days before ballots for the formation of a water management district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin will be mailed out, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted to disband an advisory committee for the basin.
The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Advisory Committee was scheduled to sunset on Jan. 28 after two years of advising the supervisors on the management of the basin, where groundwater levels have dropped precipitously in recent years. Supervisors unanimously voted to allow the group to disband, saying it had done its job.
On March 8, voters and property owners in the basin will vote whether to form and fund a water management district overseen by a board of directors elected by basin voters and property owners.
“Now it’s up to the folks of the basin to decide what they want to do,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said.
Patricia Wilmore, who represented the wine industry on the advisory committee, agreed with Mecham. “We all need to focus on that next step,” she said.
Now it’s up to the folks of the basin to decide what they want to do.
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Frank Mecham
During the two years of its existence, more than 50 people were involved in the committee and put in more than 8,500 hours of service, said Sue Luft, committee chairwoman.
During its meeting in December, the committee expressed no interest in continuing, said Scott Duffield, the county’s Paso Robles basin project manager. If the committee’s lifespan had been extended, it is unclear how many, if any, of the current committee members would be interested in continuing to serve, he said.
The committee was formed in 2014 and consisted of representatives of various stakeholder groups in the basin including agriculture, the wine industry, residents and environmentalists. It replaced a similar panel called the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Blue Ribbon Steering Committee that was formed in 2012.
Both the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Advisory Committee favored formation of a water district as the best way to manage the basin. The Advisory Committee also recommended banning exporting water from the basin.
Dale Gustin of Paso Robles told supervisors on Tuesday that he opposes the formation of a water district because of its proposed annual budget of nearly $1 million.
“Now is not a time to go spending wildly,” he said.