LAFCO reaffirms spheres of RCDs

San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted March 4 to reaffirm the spheres of influence for the county’s three resource conservation districts, two of which serve portions of Greater Fallbrook.

“Everything was reaffirmed,” said LAFCO executive officer Mike Ott. “There were no changes.”

A sphere of influence study determines boundaries best served by a particular agency. An update is a prerequisite to any boundary change including an annexation or consolidation, and LAFCO periodically conducts sphere of influence updates for all districts.

The Mission Resource Conservation District includes Fallbrook, Bonsall, and Rainbow while the Upper San Luis Rey Resource Conservation District extends into Pala and also encompasses Pauma Valley, Valley Center, Palomar Mountain, and Warner Springs. Resource conservation districts, (RCDs), which are formed to control water runoff and prevent soil erosion, were originally created to focus on agricultural use of land but now involve themselves in watershed management, recreational area management, urban and agricultural irrigation and water use, water quality, forest land productivity, agricultural and wildlife enhancement, and public education for children and adults.

A RCD may conduct demonstration projects and can provide technical assistance to private landowners or occupants, and may make improvements or conduct operations on private or public land with the consent of the property owner or the owner’s agent.

RCDs have their origins in response to the Dust Bowl. On April 27, 1935, the Soil Conservation Act was passed which created the Soil Conservation Service branch of the United States Department of Agriculture. Farmers were skeptical about federal involvement, so the program included the creation of local soil conservation districts with locally-elected boards. Those boards and districts had no regulatory power but worked in conjunction with the Soil Conservation Service. In order for those local districts to be created, states had to pass enabling legislation; the first states to authorize local districts did so in March 1937.

The agencies involved have since taken on additional duties to help educate farmers and non-farm landowners. The Soil Conservation Service is now the National Resources Conservation Service and is still part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the 1970s, California’s soil conservation districts became resource conservation districts, although some states retain the soil conservation district designation.

The Mission RCD was established in 1944 to assist property owners in the San Luis Rey and Santa Margarita watershed areas in implementing soil, water, and other resource conservation practices. The Mission RCD’s activities include watershed restoration, irrigation water management, conservation planning, and natural resource education programs. It comprises 185.2 square miles, and approximately 140,000 residents live within its boundaries which include Rainbow, Bonsall, Fallbrook, and the northern portion of the City of Oceanside.

In June 1986, LAFCO adopted a sphere of influence identical to the district boundaries. LAFCO reaffirmed that sphere of influence in August 2007, and the most recent review indicated that no jurisdictional changes or new information would warrant a change to the sphere.

The Upper San Luis Rey RCD was formed in 1945. Approximately 11,500 people live within its 402 square miles. The RCD works with local landowners and federal and state agencies to provide erosion control information.

The Upper San Luis Rey RCD is also a member of the Upper San Luis Rey Watershed Authority which is responsible for maintaining a sustainable San Luis Rey River Basin. When LAFCO adopted the original sphere of influence in June 1986, the sphere also included 23.4 square miles of non-contiguous islands including Cleveland National Forest land and a portion of Valley Center. That sphere of influence was also reaffirmed in August 2007.

The county’s other RCD is the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego, whose boundaries encompass 2,889 square miles. In addition to reaffirming the spheres of the three resource conservation districts, LAFCO’s March 4 action also reaffirmed the spheres of the Oceanside Small Craft Harbor District and the Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District.

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