Supervisors approved amendments to agricultural offset requirements for the basin

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, July 12, where they discussed and made decisions regarding the Paso Basin.

During public comment, residents made several comments on the recent election, which was certified by County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano on July 7. 

One resident said she sent a letter to Cano asking for data from the general and primary elections since 2020 to be preserved longer than their traditional expiration date. She additionally asked supervisors to write a resolution for this preservation.


District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold requested the item to be agendized before August.

Cano will be bringing the election results to the Board of Supervisors for the July 19 meeting to declare the candidates.

Supervisors approved amendments to the agricultural offset requirements for the Paso Basin. The amendments were specifically made to land use ordinance Title 22, Section 22.30.204, which started as an urgency ordinance back in 2013 and affects Districts 1 and 5. 

In addition, in 2015, the Ag Offset Ordinance was set in place to regulate new commercial plantings using Paso Basin Land Use Management Area (PBLUMA) groundwater wells with ministerial permits. Other objectives of the ordinance were: 

  • Require “water neutral” new crop plantings
  • Allow an exemption for farms to plant that are not able to under the existing agricultural offset ordinance
  • Conserve groundwater resources for use by production agriculture.
  • Support a healthy and competitive agricultural industry.
  • Encourage and facilitate smaller production agriculture operations.

Essentially, the ordinance restricted new crop planting permits until 2045 and implemented several other regulations on crops. 

A presentation on the ordinance was given by the county to the Agricultural Liaison Advisory Board on July 7. The presentation can be found online at

The San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau submitted a letter to San Luis Obispo County Department of Planning and Building on July 6 regarding their opposition to the ordinance. 

Their letter states: 

“Farm Bureau did not support the creation of the original Agricultural Offset Urgency Ordinance in August of 2013, but an extension of the existing ordinance is substantially better for agriculture than the Pandora’s Box of new regulations opened by this new Paso Basin Land Use Planting Ordinance.”

The Farm Bureau’s letter can be found here

District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold made comments regarding the ordinance, saying what was meant to be a temporary urgency ordinance is still in place, creating an uneven distribution of water. 

“What it resulted in, truthfully, is we had a lot of large pumpers that still to this day have unlimited use of water,” said Arnold. “All this time, we’ve seen a lot of large pumpers have no restrictions, and we’ve seen many, many generational farmers, smaller farmers, family farmers, who couldn’t really afford to drop big systems and just did what they had always done. We had a severe drought. They stopped irrigating for that year or two years or whatever it took to get out of the drought.

“And when it came time to start their generational irrigated farming, they were told by the county they couldn’t. They couldn’t water, and they had no water rights for irrigation.”

The staff’s recommendation was to extend the ordinance’s termination date from Aug. 31 to the effective date of the Paso Basin Land Use Planting Ordinance or Jan. 31, 2023 — whichever one came first. 

Arnold made the motion to extend the ordinance to Aug. 31, 2023, to allow time for any forthcoming business regarding the ordinance.

“It is very important to me to have a fair distribution of the water,” said Arnold. 

District 1 Supervisor John Peschong seconded the motion saying, “I also want to reiterate that I truly believe this is moving in the right direction for fair distribution of our groundwater.”

The motion was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors.

The Paso Basin was again in the spotlight at the supervisors meeting when a hearing was held considering a resolution adopting the updated Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Salinas Valey, affecting all districts. 

According to the City of Paso Robles, the “Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) fulfills the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) for the Paso Robles Subbasin of the Salinas Valley Basin. The goal of this GSP is to sustainably manage the groundwater resources of the Paso Robles Subbasin for long-term community, financial, and environmental benefit of Subbasin users.” 

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved staff to move forward with the sustainability plan for the Paso Subbasin.

Further information on the Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan can be found here

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for July 19 at 9 a.m.