The County of San Luis Obispo accomplished a lot in 2015. In addition to the critical fundamentals such as saving lives and working to ensure the health and safety of the public, we made considerable progress regarding a number of complex issues and projects.
Not surprisingly, water policy and water related issues dominated the Board of Supervisors agenda this past year. San Luis Obispo County and many areas of the state continued to deal with the impacts of the extreme drought and the Board’s local proclamation of emergency and the Governor’s proclamation of emergency for all of California remain in effect.
Over the course of the past year, the County continued to implement the statewide groundwater legislation that took effect January 2015. The legislation requires more active monitoring and management of groundwater basins throughout California in order to avoid overutilization of the basins.
Here locally, efforts continued to create a water district, which would have responsibility for the oversight and management of the majority of the Paso Robles water basin. The question of whether or not to form such a district will be decided by the voters in March 2016.
On a separate but related note, the Board authorized a considerable amount of local water legislation this past year. One such example is a water export ordinance, which ensures that most, if not all, groundwater that originates in this County will remain for local use.
The Board also passed legislation that requires new development and new agriculture to offset water consumed by reducing the water used elsewhere (i.e., the new water use must be water neutral). Many of these policies are just now underway and the results will be more apparent over the next few years.
Also in response to the drought, much work was done to reduce the extreme fire hazard in Cambria. Approximately half of the Monterey Pines are dead or dying as a result of the drought and extensive efforts were made, and are still underway, to remove the fire hazards.
Additionally, the emergency desalination plant in Cambria was built and is operational. The small scale plant will be used to provide supplemental water to the community when well levels drop to dangerously low levels, which occurred this past year.
Outside of the water arena, much progress was made with respect to County infrastructure. There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects underway.
Some notable projects of 2015 include the following:
- Work continued on the new women’s jail, which is expected to open later this year.
- Work also proceeded on the addition to the juvenile hall, which is also expected to open later this year.
- The Los Osos wastewater treatment plant is expected to be operational in March 2016, which will be a significant milestone that has been 30 years in the making!
- Lastly, construction has begun on a new airport terminal and work is underway to design and construct a new animal shelter.
We also made much progress this past year in many other areas. We expanded employee education and training programs in order to help us better serve the public, many County departments received awards for excellent performance, we continued to focus on improving communication within the organization and externally with the community, and the County’s financial and budget situation continued to improve.
Next on the Horizon
With that in mind, what’s on the horizon for the coming year? A lot.
On the legislative front, water and marijuana will likely dominate local and state agendas. Legislation overhauling the regulation of medicinal marijuana was passed by the State and took effect in January 2016.
As a result of this legislation, counties and cities are required to determine how to regulate the cultivation, testing and labeling, distribution, and sale of medicinal marijuana.
Additionally, it is anticipated that a statewide initiative will be put before the voters this fall regarding legalization for recreational use. I’m certain this potential initiative will garner much attention in the coming months.
Other noteworthy projects that will likely be reviewed by the Board in 2016 include a proposed psychiatric hospital in Templeton and a proposed rail spur at the Phillips 66 oil refinery near Nipomo. Both projects have generated considerable public interest and debate and it’s anticipated that the Planning Commission and Board meetings will be well attended.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank County employees for all of their hard work this past year. I look forward to an exciting 2016.
County Administrative Officer