SLO County votes in favor of Nipomo water project



San Luis Obispo County has cast its vote in favor of a controversial supplemental water project for Nipomo.

On March 27, SLO County supervisors, acting in their side role as the SLO County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, cast a ballot in favor of the Nipomo Supplemental Water Project. The Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) issued a ballot to property owners, who have been asked to vote on whether they want to pay an assessment for the project.

If approved, the NCSD will begin work on a $27 million pipeline to bring water from Santa Maria to Nipomo.

The county owns eight properties in the area, with a total weighted assessment of $89,801, according to a county staff report. On a 4-1 vote, county supervisors cast their weighted ballots in favor of the project because, as they see it, the pipeline is the only viable option to get Nipomo the water it dearly needs.

Before casting his vote, Supervisor Frank Mecham said, “If in fact the [Nipomo] mesa needs water, I’m trying to determine what is the alternative we have?”

Supervisor Hill chimed in, “There isn’t one.”

Supervisor Paul Teixeira, whose district includes Nipomo, voted against the project. He made a motion for the county to cast a neutral vote on its properties, but it failed to get a second from another supervisor.

In 2007, the county declared Nipomo water supply in a level of severity three and imposed mandatory water conservation policies. However, NCSD officials claim the community still needs additional water beyond what it has available in the ground—even with those conservation measures in place. Community members have criticized the district for not exploring other options to bring in water, and many are worried about potential future costs.

NCSD General Manager Michael LeBrun told county supervisors that the district already implemented a 10 percent increase in its water rates every year for five years. The water project will raise rates an additional 10 percent each year until the project is operational, which will equate to about $60 per month for ratepayers, he said.

Teixeira said he had unanswered questions about the project, particularly the costs that could be borne by residents.

“In my heart of hearts I can’t support this,” he said.

All ballots are due May 9.

In another vote that day, county supervisors unanimously approved a groundwater management plan for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which, like Nipomo, has been labeled with a level of severity three.

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