Public vote to decide future of water basin management
LAFCO votes 6-1 to let property owners, voters decide
– The Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, comprised of at-large member Tom Murray of Arroyo Grande, county supervisors Frank Mecham and Bruce Gibson, Pismo Beach City Councilman Ed Waage, Cambria Community Services District Director Muril Clift, Los Osos Community Services District Director Marshall Ochylski and Atascadero City Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi voted 6-1 Thursday to allow landowners and voters to decide the future of the management of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, according to reports.
Councilwoman Fonzi was the only “no” vote, saying that the option may not be the best route for basin control. She said she supports an election, but she feels LAFCO is not providing accurate information relative to the water district’s cost of operation. For instance, the proposed water district’s annual budget calls for only $100,000 to cover legal expenses. Some legal experts say lawsuits may drive that legal budget item to several million dollars in a few years. Even environmental advocate Eric Greening said the budget did not include adequate legal expense.
Property owners will get a chance to vote on whether to form a management district, and registered voters in the area will decide on whether to pay for it. The voting will be conducted by mail in February and early March.
There will be two mail-in elections. One election is for formation of the water district. About 4,300 property owners each get one vote in that election. The second election is for funding the water district. 7,600 registered voters living within the boundaries of the proposed water district will vote on that proposal, but it needs two-thirds majority for passage. The Quiet Title group, also known as Power, submitted more than 1,200 protests to LAFCO. That number raises questions about the proponents ability to secure the water district’s approval in the March election.
The purpose of the district is to manage the groundwater resources consistent with the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.