H-PASO ROBLES

Oct 8, 2013 6:34 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

SLO County Board of Supervisors votes to extend water urgency ordinance

San Luis Obispo County Supervisors on Tuesday extended an urgency ordinance in the North County, continuing restrictions placed on water use there.

Last week, the Board could not agree on whether to extend the water restrictions which expire Friday. It needed four votes, but was split three to one. On Tuesday, supervisors passed a vote extending the current urgency ordinance for a full two years.

Four supervisors, including new supervisor Caren Ray, voted to extend the ordinance. However, District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold chose to abstain.

The ordinance would require all new planting and water use projects to have a one to one water ratio offset, meaning whatever they use must be saved somewhere else.

According to Supervisor Arnold, she chose to abstain over vested rights issues. The current ordinance does not address whether farmers who have committed to plantings prior to the urgency ordinance being put in place, would have to abide by the offset requirement.

"By not defining vested rights, that's a very big part of the ordinance," she said. "That will affect many, many working families and jobs in the North County."

Arnold says she does not object to the extension of the ordinance but rather the lack of detail over vested rights.

The urgency ordinance is set to continue for a two year period, expiring on August 26th at midnight in 2015.

To clarify, vested rights are contractual commitments by farmers to plant. Farmers who made agreements and have invested money into those agreements prior to the original ordinance being put in place argue they should not be required to produce one to one offsets.

The Board chose to continue discussions over vested rights at the November 26th meeting.

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