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A call for grass roots stewardship of the Paso basin and watershed 

Opinion of Nanette Fisher
Soaring Eagle Press

I don’t trust our county government under the current leadership as far as I can throw it. And that has been the sticking point for me in terms of what should or shouldn’t be done regarding the challenges facing the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin – particularly the push to develop a water district and the far-reaching ramifications of the ill-advised Urgency Ordinance.

After several months of in depth study of the basin and the issues surrounding it, I have come to the following conclusions:

• As an individual, I fully support Cindy Steinbeck and POWR (Protect Our Water Rights) as well as PR-WIN (Paso Robles – Water Integrity Network) in their pursuit of both their “Quiet Title” and Writ of Mandamus suits.

• I cannot – under the current County leadership and the PRAAGS (Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions) /PWE (PRO Water Equity) proposal – support a water district over the basin at this time and under these conditions.

• When it comes to the challenges facing the basin, I strongly disagree with the portrayal of the north county vineyards as being the culprits – while they certainly play a role, it is in fact the inability of the basin to normally recharge due to the intense amount of hardscape and hard pan in the cities and towns along the Salinas corridor and the rural residential areas – particularly the 46E corridor and areas in El Pomar – that is causing an imbalance in the basin’s water budget.

• Contrary to what the South County media and politicians along with interested local parties have portrayed, the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin and its watershed is both currently and potentially a water rich region – and in a state where it is at a premium, water is liquid gold in terms of both political power and monetary gain.

• After uncovering a number of associations between the Kern Water Bank Authority (see “Water Heist: How Corporations Are Cashing In On California’s Water) and members of PRAAGS (see “Paso water group wields major muscle”), PRO Water Equity, large corporations with interests in the North County, and the County itself – as well as the Central Coast Water Authority with its state water pumping infrastructure that comes from the Central Valley and runs from the North County to serve entities in southern San Luis Obispo County and on to Santa Barbara County – I believe that it is highly probable there are those who are manipulating this current situation for both personal and political gain – to the detriment of those who live and work in the North County

It is therefore imperative, that we in the North County come together immediately to do four things:

• Stop the formation of the PRAAGS/PWE water district.

• Stop the county from taking the twin reins of water and land use power in the north county by rolling back the different legislative bricks that have been laid in the county’s pursuit of controlling water through land use ordinances – including keeping the Urgency Ordinance from becoming a part of county-wide land use ordinances that will affect everyone in the county.

• Immediately come together to form a North County Water Association – one that includes representatives from our cities, towns, commercial, rural residential and agricultural interests from throughout both the basin and its watershed – to begin working together as quickly as possible in a grass roots effort toward stabilizing and eventually maximizing our local water resources through excellence in cooperative stewardship (not committees under the county umbrella and influence).

• And institute a long-range program of “Slow It Down And Soak It Up” to bring the state of the basin and it’s watershed not only back into balance, but to one of abundance through genuine grass roots stewardship by everyone in the basin and its watershed.

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