State Assembly passes bill to allow structure of proposed Paso Robles Water Basin District
The California State Assembly voted this week to approve local Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian’s bill that allows for a hybrid structure of a water board as proposed for the Paso Robles Water Basin District. The final vote count for AB 2453 was 50 aye votes and 11 no votes.
“I want to thank my legislative colleagues for passing this important measure for our community on the Assembly Floor with bi-partisan support,” Achadjian told the Paso Robles Daily News. “They have agreed with the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and the City of Paso Robles that Assembly Bill 2453 is the best solution to maintain local control of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, and help local homeowners and the agriculture community effectively deal with the water crisis that continues to affect our local economy. The Governor has highlighted the diminishing water levels in the basin and has included $1.9 million in his budget for the state to start managing groundwater basins that do not currently have a management structure. While this bill is still a work in progress, it is our community’s way of ensuring the state does not interfere with the basin and attempt to manage our water for us.”
The proposal for the Paso Robles Basin Water District calls for nine directors: three to be elected by registered voters, two to be elected by landowners with less than 40 acres, two to be elected by landowners with 40 to 400 acres, and two to be elected by landowners with 400 acres or more. The hybrid board structure was a compromise reached by rural residents, represented by PRO Water Equity and large landowners, represented by the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS). This structure received the endorsements of the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors, the Paso Robles City Council, and State Assemblyman Achadjian.
State law currently allows districts run by directors elected by popular vote and districts that are run by directors elected by landowners, but not a hybrid of the two. That may change as Achadjian’s bill moves to the State Senate for its consideration. The bill would then need the governor’s signature.
The formation of the district is opposed by vineyard owner Cindy Steinbeck and her supporters organized as a group called Protect Your Water Rights. Other opponents includes members who have split from PRO Water Equity, as reported recently in Cal Coast News.
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