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New Irrigated Crop Production - Agricultural Offset Program

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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 levelsWithin the Paso Basin, there is a subarea called the "area of severe decline" that has more stringent restrictions. Click here for a map. 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 De Minimus 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.​

Amendments to the Agricultural Offset Ordinance

On June 18, 2019, the Board directed staff to consider amendments to the Agricultural Offset Ordinance for the Paso Basin. 

Phase 1 Amendments - Effective December 5, 2019 (Click here to see the updated ordinance.)

  • Eliminate off-site offsets.

  • Extend the termination date to January 1, 2022.

  • Include a water duty factor for hemp and supplementally irrigated dry cropland.

  • Create a process to determine water duty factors for crops not specified in the ordinance.

Phase 1.5 Amendments - Planning Commission hearing scheduled for February 27, 2020.

  • Update the maps of the Paso Basin and the Area of Severe Decline to be consistent with the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

  • Create a fallowing registration.

  • Discuss environmental determination of Phase 2 amendments.

Phase 2 Amendments - Timing to be determined by Phase 1.5 determination.

  • Expand the definition of de minimus from 5 AFY to 25 AFY per site.

  • Extend the lookback period beyond 5 years.

  • Discuss re-allowing off-site offsets.

  • Revisit water offset fees and water usage assumptions.

  • Revisit the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin planning area standards prohibiting land divisions and General Plan Amendments.

  • Revisit the 1:1 offset requirement for the Nipomo Mesa.

To join the interest list to receive updates on the amendment process, please email Kylie Hensley at khensley@co.slo.ca.us.

The Agricultural Offset Ordinance will eventually be replaced by the new Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

Click here for more information.