Groups agree on makeup of board for proposed North County water district

Jerry Reaugh is chairman of Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions.
Jerry Reaugh is chairman of Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Two groups working to form a water district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin have agreed on a management structure that would consist of a nine-member board of directors.

A public meeting to introduce the plan for a water management district and answer questions about it will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Pear Valley Winery, 4900 Union Road in Paso Robles.

The board would consist of three members elected by residents of the basin as well as six members elected by landowners based on the number of acres they own.

Two members would represent owners of fewer than 40 acres. Two would represent owners of between 40 and 399 acres, and the final two would represent those owning 400 acres or more.

“A nine-member board of directors and the landowner voting categories were chosen since the structure is more inclusive, allowing everyone’s voice to be heard,” said Sue Luft, president of PRO Water Equity, one of the two groups.

The other group is Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions, or PRAAGS, which represents many of the wineries in the basin.

Dana Merrill, vice chairman of PRAAGS, said the nine-member board will give fair representation to both rural homeowners and growers.

The two groups will gather voter signatures on a petition to form the water management district, which will be presented to the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission. The commission will then decide whether an election will be held to form the district.

A month ago, the two groups agreed on a basic governance structure for the water district. But a main point of disagreement was the makeup of the board of directors. Rural homeowners were concerned that the board would give vintners too much say in how the basin is managed.

The intent of the water district is to manage use of the groundwater basin, which has seen significant drops in water levels in recent years. The district would also work to obtain new water sources.