Paso Robles water district bill is heading toward Senate vote

Katcho Achadjian
Katcho Achadjian jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A bill in the state Legislature to form a water district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin has passed another key Senate committee and is on its way to a vote by the whole Senate.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved the legislation Tuesday by a 6-0 vote. The bill, AB 2453 by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, would create a water district for the Paso basin with a board of directors that, in its current version, is a combination of property owners and at-large members, commonly referred to as a hybrid board.

The bill has already been approved by the Assembly and another Senate committee. The Senate has amended the bill so it will eventually have to go back to the Assembly for a vote to reconcile the two versions.

“This is good news,” said Sue Luft, a North County resident who heads one of two groups working to form the water district. “We have gotten through another important step.”

State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, represents San Luis Obispo County in the Senate. He voted in favor of the legislation Tuesday in order to address the economic and environmental consequences of falling aquifer levels in the basin.

“Today I supported AB 2453 because it provides an avenue for the community to vote and determine if a groundwater management district hybrid model will be the basin’s governance structure,” Monning said. “The region is facing a severe drought and as more demands are placed on the groundwater basin, it is imperative that we address its governance.”

The committee Tuesday also supported two key amendments to the bill: One requires that the decision whether to form the water district would be made by landowners each having one vote; the other amendment allows registered voters rather than just property owners to hold three at-large seats on the nine-member board of directors.

The first amendment came at the request of the county Board of Supervisors. A majority of supervisors were concerned that the district could be formed by only a handful of large landowners if the traditional method was used of giving landowners one vote for every acre they own.

The state Legislative Counsel is expected to finalize the exact wording of the amendments within the next six days, Luft said. The whole Senate will take up the bill in August with the earliest the Senate could vote on the bill being Aug. 4.