County joins the Paso Basin Cooperative Committee



After approving a memorandum of understanding (MOA) with stakeholders over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin on Aug. 22, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has almost all of the collaborative agreements it needs to try and bring the county's six water basins into compliance with the state.

Supervisors unanimously decided to join Paso Robles, the San Miguel and Heritage Ranch community service districts (CSDs), and the Shandon-San Juan Water District in forming the Paso Basin Cooperative Committee. The MOA establishes voting thresholds that will enable those five groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to collaborate on a groundwater management plan for the Paso basin, which is required by California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The law forces water pumpers to form GSAs over "high" and "medium" priority basins and to have a water management plan in place by Jan. 31, 2020.

The MOA states that there has to be 100 percent agreement on the groundwater management plan before it's approved and sets a 67 percent threshold for any other committee action. That way, no single GSA can control things, according to county Public Works Director Wade Horton. So far, the county gets 61 percent of the votes on the committee, but that could change, as the Estrella-El Pomar Creston Water District is still in the process of becoming a GSA.

If that happens, the county would keep 32 percent of the vote. Once a management plan is put forward and approved by the state Department of Water Resources, the memorandum will be terminated, Horton said.

The agreement is similar to what the county already has in place for the Atascadero sub-basin with the Atascadero Mutual Water Company, Templeton CSD, cities of Paso and Atascadero, and people with small water systems over the sub-basin. That MOA has a 50 percent threshold for most decisions, and 66.67 percent is required to approve a groundwater management plan.

For the Los Osos Valley and Santa Maria Valley basins, the county is the sole agency making decisions on water management. SLO County is part of a joint powers agreement with Kern, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, the Cuyama CSD, and the Cuyama Basin Water District to come up with the plan for Cuyama Valley's basin. That agreement stipulates a 50 percent vote for most decisions and 75 percent for the management plan.

The county recently finished negotiations with the city of San Luis Obispo concerning a MOA for the San Luis Groundwater Basin. That agreement is expected to come before the Board of Supervisors sometime in September, Horton said. Δ

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