Northern SLO County considers creating groundwater basin distric - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Northern SLO County considers creating groundwater basin district

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Residents and landowners in Northern San Luis Obispo County are faced with a big decision about their most vital resource: water. 

Wednesday night, more than 100 people gathered at a forum in Templeton to discuss measures that will effect the Paso Robles Ground Water Basin. 

Measures A and B would fund and create a local water district for the basin, ensure water is not exported and prevent the state from taking control. 

The San Luis Obispo County chapter of California Women for Agriculture hosted Wednesday's forum. Kamee Knutsen serves as president of the organization. 

"It is the number one topic in the ag community right now," Knutsen said, regarding the water district measures. 

Measures A and B would grant local control to an elected nine-member board, who would manage the basin. 

Randy Diffenbaugh supports the measures and is running for a seat on the proposed board. 

"The people who live here, the people who vote here, the people who raise their kids here, who work here...we are the best people to decide what's best for our community and what's the best for our basin," Diffenbaugh said. 

Greg Grewel sees the local board as superfluous. He's against A and B. 

"This just puts another layer of government in front of what we already have," Grewel said. 

The cost to establish the water district is estimated at $1 million, according to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission. 

Grewel says the district will unnecessarily raise taxes and increase regulations. 

"It's built for the big money and the big guy to use as much water as they want to use and for the small person to have an open checkbook to pay for what they need," Grewel said. 

If the measures are not adopted, representatives from the State Water Resources Control Board told forum attendees, they will have to step in and manage the basin at an undetermined price. 

Diffenbaugh says having local control is worth the $1 million price tag. 

"Although it's $1 million that most of us would probably prefer not to spend, the law says we are going to have to have compliance and this is the cheapest route," he said. 

However, some rural landowners like Grewel remain resistant to handing over water rights to a local board. 

"I am not asking you to give up your rights to your beneficial use of the water," Grewel said. "They are asking you to do that because they want to be in control of the water." 

The all-mail election ballots were mailed to an estimated 6,000 registered voters on Monday. Ballots are due March 8. 

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