Opinion » Letters

Shandon water district idea is not what it seems



As Oct. 20 approaches I have been thinking about a petition that will come before the Local Agency Formation Commission on that date. There are a few folks in Shandon who want to form a water district, a smaller water district for the Shandon-San Juan sub basin, an opt-in water district.

These folks are very eager to create the district so they can gain local control and comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). They want to become a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) and they want to write a groundwater sustainability plan. Along the way they have ignored a few things.

Most importantly, if the Shandon-San Juan District forms, becomes a GSA, and writes a plan, it will not be in compliance with SGMA until the entire Paso Robles Basin is managed by groundwater sustainability plans.

Perhaps these folks are more interested in control than in complying with SGMA. Ultimately, seeking control may not work out too well because by selecting an opt-in, opt-out district they will create two classes of ownership in Shandon-San Juan sub basin. I call these the "haves" and the "have nots."

Those who opt in to the district will be the "have nots" because they will give their water rights to the district. The "haves" will continue to hold overlying groundwater rights. I can think of several instances when these two classes of landowners might find themselves at odds with one another over water management practices.

One of the simplest ways a water district might try to enhance its resource would be to divert surface water into perculation ponds to promote groundwater recharge. Still, this might not be a simple matter in a Swiss-cheese-like district interspersed with landowners who have retained overlying groundwater rights. Any diversion of water to benefit district lands at the expense of Shandon-San Juan "haves" and other downstream landowners (Estrella and north) might meet with protest.

In my opinion this peculiar in or out district will place new stresses on decision-making that may place the entire Paso Robles Basin on the fast track to full-blown adjudication. I don't think that is what the Shandon water district folks had in mind.

-- Ann Myhre - Shandon landowner

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