PASO ROBLES GROUNDWATER BASIN (PRGWB)
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Recent policy updates
On April 6, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors directed planning staff to:
Develop a planting ordinance for the Paso Basin (defined using the Fugro boundary, excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin) to be effective until 2045 with a two-tier framework.
Tier 1 exemption allowing plantings using 25 AFY of irrigation per site (defined as contiguous parcels under common ownership)
Tier 2 ministerial approval for plantings maintaining neutral water use on site with a 6-year lookback period
The ordinance is to NOT include a third tier discretionary permit requiring CEQA review; as a result, there is presumably no mechanism / option to approve / allow new plantings not falling within Tier 1 or Tier 2.
Bring an ordinance amendment to extend the Agricultural Offset Requirements to June 1, 2022.
Include funding for a 14-month Limited Term Planner III position and EIR contract during the budget hearings scheduled for June 7-9, 2021.
On January 26, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors directed staff to return with a detailed budget impact analysis to develop a new land use policy to require planting permits for irrigated crops using water from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin until 2045 with a 3-tiered framework:
Tier 1: Exemption Clearance Permit for plantings using up to 25 AFY/site of irrigation
Tier 2: Ministerial Permit for plantings maintaining neutral water use with a 6-year lookback
Tier 3: Discretionary Permit with CEQA review for plantings that do not fall under Tier 1 or 2
On November 17, 2020, the Board of Supervisors adopted additional amendments to the Agricultural Offset Requirements to update the map of the area of severe decline. Approximately 37,000 acres were removed and no acreage was added.
On August 18, 2020, the Board of Supervisors adopted amendments to the Agricultural Offset Requirements.
New or expanded irrigated crop production - Agricultural Offset Requirements
On October 27, 2015, the Board adopted Resolution 2015-288 that amended County Code (Title 22) to require new and/or expanded irrigated crop production to obtain an Agricultural Offset Clearance from the Department of Planning and Building to minimize further depletion of groundwater levels. On November 5, 2019, the Board amended Title 22 to extend the termination date of the Agricultural Offset Clearance requirement to January 1, 2022. Any Agricultural Offset Clearances that were conditionally approved and still active on December 5, 2019 will now terminate on January 1, 2022.
There are three main scenarios for how this ordinance may affect a property:
1. If there is existing irrigated crop production on site within the 5 years preceding the application date, the property can be replanted in the same crop type and acreage with an Ag Offset Exemption. Planting new or expanded crops would require an On-Site Offset Clearance showing the new crop would use the same amount of water as the existing crop, or less.
2. If there is not existing irrigated crop production on site within the 5 years preceding the application date and if the site is not within the "area of severe decline", new irrigated crop production may be allowed with a one-time Ag Offset Exemption to plant crops that use up to 5 acre-feet per year of water (e.g., 4 acres of vineyard).
3. If there is not existing irrigated crop production on site within the 5 years preceding the application date and if the site is within the "area of severe decline", then there are no options for new or expanded irrigated crop production under the current ordinance.