SLO City Councilman wants seat on regional water board

A local city councilman is seeking an appointment to the regional water quality board, as that body continues to address agricultural runoff and other issues important to the Central Coast economy and environment.

San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh says he would like to sit on the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Ashbaugh says the board has “a tremendous impact on our lives,” keeping an eye on quality of ground and surface water, and protecting the coast, among other things.

According to its website, the board, created in 1967, “protect(s) and enforc(es) the many uses of water, including the needs of industry, agriculture, municipal districts, and the environment.” It monitors agricultural runoff and administers the Federal Clean Water Act.

It has nine members, but four of the seats are vacant. They are appointed by the governor to 4-year terms and ratified by the Legislature. They meet every six weeks. There are nine regional boards in the state, and the Central Coast board covers a 300-mile stretch from southern San Mateo County to northern Ventura County.

Ashbaugh says he expects the empty positions to remain vacant until after Gov.-elect Jerry Brown takes office in January.

The nine members each concentrates on a particular specialty, such as agriculture, industry, and fish and wildlife, according to the water board’s Harvey Packard. John Hayashi of Arroyo Grande, for example, represents agriculture, and Dr. Monica Hunter of Los Osos represents the public.

Ashbaugh would be seeking to represent municipal government.

The water quality district’s executive director, Roger Briggs, says the board’s biggest challenge in 2011 will be its continued grappling with agricultural irrigation and its many repercussions, which include nitrates in the groundwater and threats to aquatic habitat.

The board is developing and enforcing water quality objectives and implementing plans that will best protect the area's waters while recognizing our local differences in climate, topography, geology and hydrology.