IWVWD managers and supervisors respond to City legal counsel

The following statements from IWVWD managers and supervisors are in response to the staff report presented by City Counsel Keith Lemieux at the September 1st City Council meeting requesting IWVWD consider financing the Groundwater Authority’s Replenishment Fee.  These statements do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Water District Board of Directors.

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While the District has shown historical demands that did exceed the currently estimated recharge of 7650 with concentrated conservation efforts by the District and it’s customers the District’s recent history indicates a pattern of demand well below that recharge estimate.

The declination of the groundwater table in the basin is not new news, this has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet the County, with full knowledge of this overdraft, permitted extensive farming throughout the basin in an attempt to increase tax revenues at the expense of the basin.  So while the county allowed extensive over pumping from the basin it is now shifting the blame of the overdraft to the farmers it allowed in.  You cannot hand someone the match and kerosene and then claim innocence to the fire started.

The IWVGA adopted a replenishment fee which requires pumpers to pay the fee to offset the overages of their pumping, to date the District has paid this fee in accordance to the GSP adopted by the IWVGA.  If this GSP did not meet the needs of the basin perhaps more consideration should have been put into the GSP rather than the overpriced slapdash one that we currently have.

The Water District has never “changed course” on the replenishment fee.  The District has always maintained the need to import water into the valley.   However the amount needed, where to get it, means of conveyance, and duration over which the fee must be paid are disputed.

It has been stated in the past by numerous members of the IWVGA that the average $25.00 per month is an acceptable increase.  I personally have heard an employee of RGS state the same thing.  Only now that the council members are facing backlash over the fee that THEY implemented are they worried about it.

The IWVGA set the terms of the fee.  You cannot set the terms of the fee, then tell the entities paying the fee how to pay the fee.  If they need the money now they should finance the fee.  If the GA financed the fee it would benefit all the pumpers of the valley.  By not financing the fee they are sending a clear message that they want farming and Searles to go out business as soon as possible.  If the IWVGA numbers are correct and financing the fee is a 75% reduction the pumpers of the valley would pay $528 per acre foot.  This would mean the SVM would have to pay 1,500,000 for the fee instead of the estimated 6,000,000.  This would save hundreds of jobs.  A reduction in the fee by the IWVGA would also give farmers the chance to pay their share of the cost but potentially not lose their entire investment.

It is completely unprofessional and irresponsible to libellously attack another agency for how it is collecting a fee.  Especially when it has proven itself throughout it’s existence to be good stewards of the rate payers money.  The District has an obligation to see not only to the quantity of water in the valley, but also to its storage, treatment, and conveyance to those who pay their bills and give us this charge.  The District has a paramount obligation to maintain a system that can provide water in times of emergency just as much as it does in times of ease.  It is with this in mind that the District forecasts its financial needs and obligations, and passes those on to the rate payers by means of their water bills.

The city attorney should stop using doom and gloom fear tactics and focus on actual solutions for the entire valley.  All members of the IWVGA were fine with the $25.00 increase to water bills when the fee was approved, including the city council member.  Only now that they face outrage from the public are they concerned.  The late concern clearly shows that these representatives are far more concerned with the public image than the actual public.

Story First Published: 2021-09-03