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Another small step for the Paso basin water district 

Proponents for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Water District have won yet another small victory.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors decided on Oct. 14 to direct staff to move forward in drafting an application to submit to the county's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for the district's formation. The move is the latest advance in what's been a bumpy road thus far, where residents overlying the ailing groundwater basin have sharply opposed views on how the basin should or shouldn't be managed.

The proposed district has already been through the public gauntlet as supervisors held multiple meetings on the issue during the drafting and eventual approval of AB 2453, special legislation carried by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian that's requisite for the district's formation.

At the meeting, some 30 people spoke during public comment, airing a dense mixture of sentiments. Some praised the bill and underscored its necessity, while others criticized the process and expressed concerns over who will ultimately have control of the district and access to groundwater.

First District Supervisor Frank Mecham, who's been quite conflicted and has oscillated on the issue as specifics were hashed out, said he appreciates the concerns, but feels that inaction on the issue will eventually lead to unwanted intervention from the state.

"There's water rights, and there's the right thing to do," he said.

Mecham and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold both have part of the basin in their districts. The supervisors voted 4-1 to move forward, with Arnold opposing over a general wariness of the district's necessity.

Public Works Deputy Director Mark Hutchinson estimated the application's preparation will take six to seven months. The total process, including LAFCO's vetting, is estimated to take about 12 to 14 months before it reaches a series of votes by residents within the district's boundaries.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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