The Nipomo Community Services District — not the county — will lead efforts to finance construction of a pipeline that would deliver water to the community from Santa Maria.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors agreed Tuesday to allow district officials to form a property tax assessment district of about 8,000 property owners in the Nipomo area, including the Mesa, some of whom live outside the services district boundaries.
The supervisors’ action helps move the $25.3 million project ahead — and could save the district time and money, because the district won’t have to wait for the county’s approval to form an assessment district and issue bonds to finance the project.
“My guess is we can do it faster and we can do it cheaper if we do it locally,” Nipomo district board member Michael Winn said.
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However, several Nipomo Mesa residents who oppose the pipeline project urged the Board of Supervisors to delay action and stay involved to represent area residents who live outside the services district’s boundaries.
The residents, many of whom are part of a loose group called Mesa Community Alliance, argue the services district is not telling the public about the project’s true cost.
They also maintain that the Santa Maria pipeline would not be reliable in times of drought because state supplies could be limited, and the project pulls additional water from the groundwater basin that would flow to Nipomo naturally.
District officials say the pipeline is needed to reduce the community’s dependence on an underground aquifer — its only source of water — and to prevent saltwater intrusion, which is the pollution of a freshwater aquifer by seawater creeping underground and moving inland.
The project is also required by a 2005 court settlement over water rights in the Santa Maria groundwater basin, which includes the Five Cities area, Nipomo and Santa Maria. The three other water purveyors on the Mesa — Golden State Water Co., Rural Water Co. and Woodlands Mutual Water Co. — also agreed to purchase a portion of the Santa Maria water, though they may not use much, or any, of it.
The pipeline “is a critical issue that should be determined by a political body in which we have representation,” said Bill Dorland, who lives outside the Nipomo district boundaries and receives his water from Rural Water Co. “I believe our interests are represented by the Board of Supervisors, certainly not at the Nipomo Community Services District.”
County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren said the supervisors could choose to lead the assessment proceedings to give them another level of review. But, he added, it makes sense for the Nipomo district to lead the effort because it has led the work on the pipeline.
Nipomo property owners would have the final say on the project, he added, when they vote on whether to approve the tax.
“This is just a formality,” Supervisor Adam Hill said, “and to provide the best means of local control.”Nipomo district officials initially thought that county involvement was required because some of the properties in question are outside the service district’s boundaries.
They later learned that a California Government Code section allows them to establish the tax district and issue bonds with the county’s consent.
Supervisors still must vote on a final resolution before Nipomo officials can move forward.
PUBLIC MEETING IN NOVEMBER
The Nipomo Community Services District will hold a community forum on water issues and the pipeline from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in Nipomo High School’s Olympic Hall, 525 N. Thompson Road.