Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

LAFCO approves RCD advisory committee recommendations

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

San Diego County's Local Agency Formation Commission has an advisory committee on the county’s three resource conservation districts, and an 8-0 LAFCO vote Aug. 7 approved recommendations for the advisory committee’s second year.

The LAFCO motion was to receive the report on the first-year activities of the ad hoc advisory committee and specific recommendations for the second year. The recommendations address functions, boundaries, funding and the structure of the ad hoc committee itself.

A resource conservation district does not have regulatory power but is classified as a special district and is thus subject to LAFCO governance. Resource conservation districts were formed to control water runoff and prevent soil erosion. They are now also involved in watershed management, recreational area management, urban and agricultural irrigation and water use, water quality, forest land productivity and public education for children and adults.

LAFCO undertakes periodic municipal service reviews for all special districts. A municipal service review evaluates services and anticipated needs. A sphere of influence study determines the boundaries best served by a particular agency. LAFCO approved municipal service review and sphere of influence updates for the three RCDs in Feb. 2021. The advisory committee was created in Aug. 2022.

The RCD of Greater San Diego has a 2,889 square mile boundary and includes 13 incorporated cities as well as unincorporated land ranging geographically from Otay to Valley Center and Borrego Springs. The Mission RCD encompasses 185.2 square miles and includes Fallbrook, Bonsall, DeLuz, Rainbow and a portion of the City of Oceanside. The Upper San Luis Rey RCD includes a portion of Rainbow along with Pala, Pauma Valley and Warner Springs; its 402 square mile boundary includes approximately 88 square miles of sovereign Indian reservation land which are not part of the RCD. The RCD of Greater San Diego has an office in Lakeside, the Mission RCD office is in Fallbrook and the Upper San Luis Rey RCD does not have its own building but holds board meetings at the Yuima Municipal Water District office in Pauma Valley.

The RCD of Greater San Diego and the Mission RCD both perform activities which extend beyond the boundaries of their agencies. The Fire Safe Council of Greater San Diego County is part of the RCD of Greater San Diego activity and works with 41 locally-formed community fire safe councils. The San Diego County Water Authority contracts with the Mission RCD to conduct agricultural water management services, residential surveys and full landscape audits. Those activities conflict with current LAFCO restriction of the RCD activity to within its jurisdictional boundaries.

The state principal act for RCDs authorizes them to perform soil erosion, water conservation, wildlife enhancement and agricultural enhancement services. Any additional services would require LAFCO to activate latent powers for those services including the RCDs' current water distribution and erosion stabilization services.

The principal act was last updated in 1971. In 2014, the State of California adopted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) whose purpose is to strengthen local groundwater. The SGMA required local agencies to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for high-priority and medium-priority basins by July 2017 and had a Jan. 2022 deadline to develop plans to achieve long-term groundwater sustainability. The San Luis Rey Valley Groundwater Basin, which the state Department of Water Resources defines as beginning at the confluence of the San Luis Rey River and Paradise Creek and ending at the Pacific Ocean within the Oceanside city limits, is designated as a medium-priority basin. The Upper San Luis Rey RCD is a partner for the GSA addressing the San Luis Rey Valley Groundwater Basin.

The advisory committee has nine members. The general managers of the RCD of Greater San Diego, the Mission RCD and the Upper San Luis Rey RCD are on the committee, each RCD chose one board or staff member to be part of the committee, and LAFCO consultant Adam Wilson selected at-large members representing water, fire and agriculture.

The committee met five times between Oct. 2022 and May 2023. The ad hoc committee developed a master memorandum of understanding subsequently signed by all three RCDs to coordinate their service programs in the future and to establish protocols to guide interagency projects when applicable including agreements to partner on grants which necessitate work beyond individual RCD boundaries and to divide activities as either a co-applicant or a subcontractor based on expertise rather than geography with proper compensation.

“It was productive and useful for us,” Wilson said.

The recommendations for the second year include LAFCO receiving and filing the memorandum of understanding as a participatory party to the agreement. “Usually they work it out before it comes to us,” said County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who chairs the LAFCO board.

The other recommendations are to conduct a geographic information system (GIS) mapping exercise to update and formally codify each RCD’s boundaries, to provide an overlay in the mapping which illustrates each RCD’s programs and services, to eliminate the at-large members of the ad hoc committee while retaining the six members from the RCDs, to advise LAFCO staff on developing a new contemporary list of RCD service functions and class designations which would align with an updated principal act, to identify any appropriate boundary changes and to identify any future changes to RCD funding mechanisms.

 

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