Paso Robles News|Thursday, September 21, 2017
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PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity refute assertions of water banking 

Opinion of Jerry Reaugh
Chairman of Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions

Two North County groups are taking exception to claims made by a small group of property owners regarding formation of the Paso Robles Basin Water District. In what they describe as a careless and misleading public relations effort, leadership of PRAAGS, Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions and PRO Water Equity take exception with two groups opposing water district formation, and the spokesperson for both groups, Cindy Steinbeck.

Ms. Steinbeck is engaging in a smear campaign intended to deceive and confuse residents with the intent of protecting a select group of property owners unwilling to collaborate on solutions to the declining groundwater levels. We are in a critical situation where honest discourse and partnership is needed. Deception and half-truths are counterproductive to this effort.

Ms. Steinbeck accuses PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity of lying about the reasons for forming a water district, as stated in her opinion piece. She claims the district’s real purpose is to create a “water bank” to sell and export water to other regions.

Background

In response to declining groundwater levels, exacerbated by the worst drought in over a century, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance in August 2013 to temporarily limit increased ground water usage. PRAAGS had forwarded a concept to form a water district, and eventually collaborated with PWE, representing small landowners, to offer a structure for managing the groundwater basin that fairly represents all water users dependent on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. In December the two groups proposed that a special district be created by the legislature. The cooperative effort has been hailed by disparate groups as being a fair and equitable approach for managing the basin.

The Paso Robles region is the last remaining major agricultural area in California to create a water district.

The water district provides for a nine member board of directors, resident to the district, with three members elected by registered voters, and six members split into three groups of two, each representing small, medium and large landowners.

A petition, calling for a special election to form the district, will be submitted to LAFCO the week of January 27, 2014.

It provides a mechanism to effectively manage the water basin and proactively work to acquire new water resources.

No Water Banking

Contrary to claims by POWR and PRWIN, PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity has never mentioned “exporting water from the basin” as an option for the proposed Paso Robles Basin Water District. Quite the opposite, this proposal has always been about addressing a 60-year problem of diminishing water resources, fair representation of all groundwater users, and the acquisition of new resources to replenish the groundwater basin. It has never been suggested, nor is it logical to sell local water to other regions when it is so desperately needed here.

Language in the petition flatly states that, “the district shall not export water from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.”

Tough questions and strong examination of our proposal is expected, but we don’t accept the misguided efforts of a few people, whose self-interests are getting in the way of good long range planning and equity for all water users.

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