Article by Daniella Sapriel
February 15, 2016
Don’t be fooled by the illusion of democracy and the rhetoric of “local control.”
The proposed Paso Robles groundwater basin district board’s hybrid structure of nine directors (three elected by one person, one vote and six elected by acreage) is a marketing gimmick — a shell game in which they added more shells (directors), but the “pea” (control of all supplemental water projects) still ends up in Big Ag hands, with basin residents and smaller landowners subsidizing projects over which they have no control.
Regardless of how many directors or land categories are created, about 30 people control 50 percent of the acreage, 90 people own 65 percent and 113 people own 71 percent. This powerful minority constitutes an unbreakable majority when voting on any issue that is acreage — weighted or involves funding — meaning everything on the supply side.
Their votes will outweigh the votes of approximately 5,000 landowners and more than 18,000 other people whose survival depends on a basin that has seen decades of overpumping and where “local” ag use constitutes 80 to 90 percent of demand.
All supply-side measures — such as expensive “supplemental water” projects — will be controlled by a minority of large-acreage basin users with a great thirst for a shared but rapidly declining resource.
They are interested in our subsidizing their use — not in limiting or disclosing how much they use.