Katcho Achadjian says he'll amend water district bill after supervisors' vote

Katcho Achadjian
Katcho Achadjian jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian said Wednesday that he is amending his bill to form a Paso Robles water district to reflect changes requested by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

In a dramatic reversal of position, supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to only support Achadjian’s bill if it required that the water district be formed by a popular vote among landowners, rather than a vote based on the amount of acreage owned.

Supervisors sent Achadjian a letter Tuesday evening informing him of the change.

“After receiving their letter last night, I am working to amend my legislation to incorporate the changes sought by the Board of Supervisors,” Achadjian said Wednesday. “I am having our legislative counsel look into the proposed amendments, and they are currently being drafted.”

Meanwhile, the bill continues to make its way through the state Legislature, having already been approved by the Assembly last month. On Wednesday, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved the bill in its original form and sent it on to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, which will hear it Tuesday.

This second committee will take up amending the bill. In addition to the formation amendment, the committee will consider other potential amendments recommended by supervisors.

These changes include making registered voters rather than property owners in the district eligible to hold three at-large seats on the board of directors and allowing the Board of Supervisors to initially fill the directors’ seats by appointment.

Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, said he will seek additional information from supervisors about their requested changes in order to deliver their message to the Senate as clearly as possible.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson, chairman of the board, attended Wednesday’s committee hearing but did not testify. The bill was originally scheduled to only be heard by the Governance and Finance Committee.

The second committee hearing was scheduled in order to give the Senate time to make the amendments, Gibson said.

“My impression was they need to do a little research on this new idea of one landowner, one vote,” he said. “They wanted some time to think about the implications.”

If approved by the Natural Resources and Water Committee, the bill would go to the full Senate for a vote. The bill would then have to go back to the Assembly for approval of any amendments. Once the Assembly and Senate bills are reconciled, it would go to the governor to be signed into law.

Achadjian’s bill allows the proposed Paso Robles district to have a hybrid board of directors composed of members elected by landowners and by popular vote. The district would manage the sprawling Paso Robles water basin, which is considered to be facing a crisis of falling aquifer levels and failing wells.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune