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Letter: Quiet title action is to protect right to water 

Letter to the editor

The opinion expressed by Robert Brown in his Nov. 3, 2014 article entitled “Basin Adjudication Does Not Solve Our Groundwater Problems” seems to express a bit of desperation. He is correct that both Laurie Gage’s articles and his opinion piece on the subject did strike a nerve because they both suggest that we should sit back and let our individual property rights be stripped away “for the common good”. When I served in the military and again when I was employed for many years as a defense contractor I took binding oaths to protect this country and it’s Constitution. I still believe that the freedoms and liberties handed down to us are well worth defending. That for me is the “common good”.

Mr. Brown stated in this article that those who have filed the ‘quiet title’ action “possess a selfish sense of entitlement”. He completely ignores the fact that the Protect Our Water Rights (POWR) members did not file a lawsuit at all. They have simply requested a court to affirm their constitutional right to the reasonable use of the water under their property by granting a quiet title to that end. That action only generated a lawsuit when the water purveyors in the area (those who sell water) claimed that they already have a prescriptive right to the water under your property because they have been using it for over 5 years. Although true on the surface, the purveyors have certainly not been using our water for over 5 years since the passage of the urgency water ordinance by the Board of Supervisors calling for a reduction in water use. Mr. Brown also refers to the ‘quiet title’ action as an unpopular approach the problem. A vast majority of the people that I have talked to about ‘quiet title’ find it to be a great idea. The ‘quiet title’ action has only increased exponentially in membership since it’s inception, so I can only surmise that ‘quiet title’ is only “unpopular” with those that seek to own your water rights.

Mr. Brown’s accusation that the exporting of water is a “baseless conspiracy theory” falls apart with a bit of research. The Limoneira Corporation is currently, openly laying the groundwork to use their Windfall Farms in Creston to sell water through a Friendly Adjudication action. Mr. Brown might also want to talk to his fellow Paso Robles Agriculture Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS) board member, Matt Turrentine, to find out why he has tapped into the vast financial support of the huge Harvard Endowment Fund to invest in all the property that can be bought in the Shandon area, conspicuously close to the California State Water Project supply. Water purveyors and distributors, like the Metropolitan Water District, (MWD) have made great profits in areas like Mojave and Ventura Counties by storing their so called “surplus water”, water that only exists on paper by way of calculated projections, in an area like this, then pumping out wet water from the ground at a later date to satisfy their customer’s needs. I don’t know how to call that anything other than “selling water.”

Mr. Brown has also completely ignored the fact that the recently passed Pavley-Dickinson legislation excludes all water basins that are currently under adjudication because they are considered to already be under a management plan. One that is based on California law and does not bend to any political or for profit agenda. Additionally, Mr. Brown conveniently ignores the fact that San Luis Obispo County already has a water district formed years ago under previous State legislation. (AB3030) The Board of Supervisors serves as the governing body for our AB3030 Water District and in doing so is already in compliance with Pavely-Dickenson. This completely comports Mr. Brown’s allegation that a State take over is hanging over our heads.

Again, Mr. Brown twists the facts when stating that the litigants in the quiet title action must prove that the right to their water has been hindered by the appropriators. The fact is that the appropriators have claimed that they already have a right to that water because they have openly been using it for a period of at least five years of which the entire aquifer has been in a shortage, with the property owners full knowledge. Remember, the SLO County Board of Supervisors only recently notified all water users in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin that the basin was challenged and passed the current ‘urgency ordinance’ just over a year ago, not 5 years ago. The truth is that the only burden of proof on the property owners is to prove that they do in fact own their property and are therefore ‘over layers’ with the right to use the water under their land for reasonable purposes as is delineated in the California Constitution.

Finally, Mr. Brown has stated that the quiet title action has pitted neighbor against neighbor and those not in the action will have to hire their own attorney to defend themselves. This is completely false and an attempt to generate fear among those who don’t have all the facts. Obtaining quiet title on your property deed does not grant you the right to use more water than your neighbor, however, it does provide a means of protection if you have a neighbor or an appropriator that is pumping so much water from their wells that they are negatively affecting your well. So the only ‘neighbors’ that may need to run out and hire their own attorney would be those who are guilty of over-pumping.

Allen Duckworth
Ground Squirrel Hollow resident