Readers of The Tribune need no longer wonder what Gov. Jerry Brown is waiting for (“When will governor OK water bill?” Sept. 13). But Assembly Bill 2453 is not the only option to address our increasingly serious problem of groundwater depletion.
Brown has also signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (Pavley-Dickinson). It is a far superior solution to the Paso Robles groundwater basin’s woes and promises a sustainable solution for all the county’s growing groundwater problems, not just a partial fix in one part of one basin.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is historic legislation. It requires the stabilization and sustainability of all groundwater resources statewide. SGMA will guarantee the future availability of the vital groundwater resource necessary for the state to survive drought cycles and guarantee the near-term and long-term prosperity of the state.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act sidesteps many of the flaws in AB 2453. A groundwater district formed under AB 2453 would set up a majority of directors permanently elected via an antiquated acreage-based system. SGMA requires the same sustainable management of the groundwater basin but does not sanc tion a one-vote-per-acre election system.
Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the county is obligated to manage the Paso basin and all other groundwater resources. An AB 2453 district covering a portion of one basin would be an additional unnecessary overlay of governance.
Supporters of an AB 2453 district maintain that the district is necessary to secure revenues needed to manage the Paso basin. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act gives the county the authority to impose and collect fees. Under SGMA residential wells (2 acre-feet per year or less) can be exempt from monitoring and reporting requirements and fees. Under the fee system originally proposed by the supporters of AB 2453, the residential user could pay 35-55 percent of the annual costs of the new district even though residential users account for a small fraction of pumped groundwater.
The sponsors of AB 2453 dropped their support of the bill but are now lobbying the Board of Supervisors to step forward and assume the financial burden of forming an AB 2453 district. The costs to the county to apply to the Local Agency Formation Commission for a district are unknown, and final approval of the district would depend on approval by a majority of landowners. A plurality vote to form a district is not guaranteed.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is now the law and is a better mechanism for managing groundwater resources. It requires that the entire Paso Rob les basin, including the portion in Monterey, be brought into balance, working in cooperation with other agencies with jurisdiction over the basin.
Sustainable groundwater management has come to California. San Luis Obispo County acting under the authority of SGMA is the superior solution for governance of the Paso Robles groundwater basin.