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Nipomo's big gulp

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According to Greg Nester, a builder and developer in Nipomo, the next 30 days are going to be very interesting.

All eyes remain fixed on the Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) and how it plans to address its ongoing groundwater problems. In short, the latest plan is to stop providing new water connections.

On May 23, the district’s Board of Directors voted 4-1 (Board President Jim Harrison was the sole dissenter) to no longer process applications for new water connections. For developers, the decision is yet another financial hit in an already difficult economy.

“I think that there is an aura of overreaction that’s probably occurring right now,” Nester said.

The decision came after the district’s proposal to publicly finance a $26 million supplemental pipeline fell flat with voters. A majority of property owners voted against a district plan to pay for the project through property tax assessments

Pat Eby of the Mesa Community Alliance thinks the district has its sights set on only the one project and has generally ignored residents’ alternative ideas.

“They’re doing scare tactics again, and I guess they’re trying to punish the developers [who voted against the project],” Eby said of the district’s recent decision.

But district officials have long held that the groundwater basin beneath Nipomo is at capacity and in danger of over pumping or being depleted so severely that it could be contaminated by seawater if another water source isn’t identified.

“Concern over the health and ever-diminishing reliability of the Nipomo Mesa Management Area of the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin is well documented,” according to a district staff report.

On May 29, the district’s Water Resources Policy Committee met to discuss potential alternatives to bring in additional water and to discuss alternative financing schemes for a smaller but similar project. District officials are exploring options to cobble together existing funds, such as a $2.3 million grant from the Department of Water Resources, to build the scaled-down pipeline.

For Nester and other property owners and developers, it remains unclear what will happen to the 276 existing will serve letters. Over the next 30 days, district officials will decide what to do with people who have letters, but haven’t yet connected to the district’s water supply.

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