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Cut down on the salt, you crazy basin 

Eight North County agencies are coming together to devise a plan aimed at curbing the steady rise of salt and nitrates in the Paso Robles groundwater basin.

The plan will take 12 to 14 months and cost $173,461 to draft. Because it’s responsible for the most contaminants to the basin, the city of Paso Robles agreed to pay the bulk of the bill: 48.1 percent. The Paso Robles City Council approved the plan at its Aug. 21 meeting. The various agencies have applied for a $100,000 state grant that could mitigate their financial burdens. Paso Robles officials expect the plan to be ready in the fall.

Though council members seemed caught off guard and expressed concern over using the sewer enterprise fund to finance the plan, City Manager Jim App said the expenditure was “immaterial.” The fund has roughly $7 million available, he said.

Atascadero Deputy Director of Public Works David Athey was less worried about his city’s ability to pitch in.

“Two years ago, Atascadero budgeted for this plan,” he said.

The State Water Resources Control Board requires groundwater basins to have salt and nutrient management plans as part of its Recycled Water Policy. If a plan isn’t in place by May 2014, the board could levy fines against wastewater dischargers in the North County.

Matt Thompson of the Paso Robles wastewater division said the plan might include elements restricting water softeners, and distributing treated wastewater across the city for irrigation use instead of discharging it in one spot.

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