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SLO County hires first groundwater sustainability director 

San Luis Obispo County has a new, one-man department dedicated to one local asset: groundwater.

On Nov. 2, the SLO County Board of Supervisors finalized an at-will contract with hydrologist Blaine Reely, who will serve as the county's first director of the Groundwater Sustainability Department.

Reely, the founder of Monsoon Consultants, a civil engineering and hydrology firm that's worked for local agencies like the San Miguel Community Services District, is expected to oversee the "overall operations and activities of groundwater resources management," according to a county staff report.

click to enlarge GROUNDWATER BOSS SLO County's new groundwater sustainability director, Blaine Reely, will oversee all local groundwater basins and their state-mandated sustainability plans. - FILE PHOTO BY TOM FALCONER
  • File Photo By Tom Falconer
  • GROUNDWATER BOSS SLO County's new groundwater sustainability director, Blaine Reely, will oversee all local groundwater basins and their state-mandated sustainability plans.

He's currently the only employee of that department, receiving a salary and benefits package of $263,759 per year. He'll be tasked with overseeing the county's implementation of its various groundwater sustainability plans, crafted for local basins to comply with the state's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

"I'm happy we were able to get Blaine hired," 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold told New Times by phone on Nov. 3. "He has experience in the Paso [Robles Groundwater] Basin. He understands the area."

Arnold said that for some time, she'd "pestered" officials about creating the department and the position, believing that the county needed a dedicated department head focused on the region's myriad groundwater concerns.

Multiple local basins, including the Paso basin, are in a state of decline.

"Here comes this groundwater dilemma where we're overpumping," Arnold said. "We kind of got into a pickle. We have to fix it before it gets worse."

Arnold had pushed back against an initial county proposal, backed by 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson, to hire more groundwater-focused staff to its Water Resources Division, which is housed under Public Works. She felt that the new department model would be more cost-effective and keep Reely independent of the Water Division.

"I wanted him to be autonomous from the others," Arnold said. "I felt like we needed someone who can focus on protecting the groundwater, getting us into compliance [with SGMA], but not have to be under the thumb of anyone."

The SLO County administrative office did not return New Times' request for comment about the hire. Δ

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