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San Diego County supervisors accept plan for San Pasqual Valley Basin

A closeup is shown of the entrance to the County Administration Building in downtown San Diego, June 27, 2015.
Michael Schuerman
A closeup is shown of the entrance to the County Administration Building in downtown San Diego, June 27, 2015.

County supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved a sustainability plan for the San Pasqual Valley Groundwater Basin.

The plan will have the county be responsible for 10% of basin management costs within its jurisdiction.

The basin is located 25 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, and is home to dairies, orchards and nurseries.

Three creeks — Guejito, Santa Maria and Santa Ysabel — drain into the Basin and converge to form the San Dieguito River that flows southwest into Hodges Reservoir.

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Along with farming, the valley is noted for its natural beauty, recreational uses and attractions such as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The county has jurisdiction over approximately 10% of the basin, while the city of San Diego has the remaining 90%.

The county's portion of basin land includes farms, the San Pasqual Academy, three residences and several private undeveloped parcels.

Plan goals include management decisions on actual measured groundwater levels (rather than model results), and outreach to residential well users on the importance of water quality testing.

Based on a suggestion by Supervisor Jim Desmond, the plan will also evaluate prior water rights decisions. The county will have to consider its groundwater rights, along with those of any holder in the unincorporated region.

According to Sarah Aghassi, deputy chief administrative officer, the sustainability plan "will ensure that the San Pasqual Valley Basin's groundwater supply provides a reliable, good-quality source of water for residents and agricultural operations in San Pasqual Valley in perpetuity."

The plan "also supports social sustainability by protecting and maintaining access of residents throughout the San Diego region to basic resources such as food by fostering a thriving agricultural community and encouraging healthy living," Aghassi added in a statement.

According to the county Land Use & Environment Office, to comply with the state's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the Board of Supervisors in June 2017 entered into an agreement with the city of San Diego.

In December, the San Diego City Council adopted a sustainability plan, which mandates that the city will be responsible for its portion of the Basin.

Both governments needed to pass sustainability plans in accordance with state law.

County staff developed a plan, as part of a joint city/county committee and peer review group, which included input from stakeholders.

Advisory committee included representatives from San Pasqual Academy, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Farm Bureau and the Rancho Guejito property.

Before approving the plan, supervisors heard from those involved in the groundwater rights issue.

Hank Rupp, Rancho Guejito chief operations officer, supported the sustainability plan and stressed the ranch's importance to the San Pasqual Valley.

At over 20,000 acres, the ranch features a grass-fed ranch and winery, Rupp said.

He added that visiting the ranch is "like stepping back in time," with a canopy of oak trees that "would stretch all the way to Chicago."