By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher
At the last Indian Wells Valley Water (IWVWD)District Board meeting held on Tuesday, November 14, a detailed discussion was held regarding the Districts new rate study.
Mark Hildebrand, the Water District (WD) Consultant gave a presentation on the status of a preliminary study of possible options for a new rate schedule. The new rate schedule accounts for future capital spending, inflation, and revenue allocation. The purpose of the study is to create the foundation for a new rate schedule to be adopted next year. The study compared the current rate schedule with four possible options. All options included capital improvement spending in the amount of $7.7 million dollars over the next five years. All options also included inflationary expense increases ranging from 8% to 6% over the next five years.
One rate schedule option was a four-tier option similar to the current rate schedule. Tier one is the indoor water allocation. Tiers 2, 3, and 4 address outdoor water use and other uses. The second tier structure investigated was a two-tier option. Tier one covers all WD expense. Tier two covers the Replenishment Fee costs, a pass-through expense, which the WD is required to give to the Groundwater Authority.
Both the four-tier option and the two-tier option evaluated a fixed fee essentially comparable to the current fixed fee and a second fixed fee level that is a reduction from the current fixed fee. Since the required revenue is fixed, lowering the fixed fee requires an increase to commodity fees, the cost of a unit of water. The alternative is raising the fixed fee and lowering the commodity fees.
The ensuing Board discussion revealed some controversy between the majority of the Board and Director Rajtora. The majority of the Board indicated a preference for a 2-tier option with the higher fixed fee while Rajtora advocated for one of the lower fixed fee options. The option the majority of the directors preferred raised the fixed fee about three dollars. The option preferred by Rajtora would reduce the fixed fee about thirteen dollars.
The final result ended in a four to one vote with Rajtora being the dissenter to direct the consultant to formalize the selected option into a full rate study that could be used as the basis for a Proposition-218 hearing. The formalized package will come back to the Board for a formal vote to take the rate proposal to a Prop-218 hearing. The new rates could be in place as early as next March.
Stan Rajtora, representing the Indian Wells Valley Water District Board on the Groundwater Authority (GA) Board, reported on the November 9 GA meeting. “Regarding the Imported Water Project and the purchase of the 750 acre feet of entitlement is going slower than anticipated. A new letter of intent has been sent to the seller. We are trying to obtain a copy of that letter. I was hoping to have more information by now, but I do not have it. In the meantime, the GA continues to look for a bonding agent. On a positive note, I believe the seller does have full legal title to water that he is trying to sell. Obviously a major milestone, as you can’t buy something from someone who does not own it.
“With regard to the Pipeline Alignment Studies that will be paid for by the $7.6 million grant, those studies are continuing. At the last meeting the Board received a brief on the Pipeline Alignment by the lead engineer for Provost and Pritchard Consulting Firm.
“The schedule they laid out has a recommended alignment coming before the Board on December 14. This will be their preferred approach. It has been narrowed down by Provost and Pritchard to three from several original approaches.
“I request the WD staff or Board members provide me their input if they have a preference on one of the alignment options.”
“On the Recycled Water Project,” Rajtora stated, “It is essentially complete and has been for several months. The draft report is due to be out by the end of this year. Stetson has been authorized to prepare a Water Recycling Feasibility Study for a Bureau of Reclamation Grant. The grant proposal is supposed to be done by the end of the year.
“The Rose Valley Water Subflow from Rose Valley to the Indian Wells Valley is still on schedule to be started by fall or winter this year.
“Two well owners have initiated applications for well impact funding. One of which has been completed for assistance. Stetson Engineers have 45 days to respond.”
Reportedly, the Capitol Core Group, the lobbyist for the GA, is working with Stetson to prepare a State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Phase Two grant proposal. The amount of $202 million may be available.
Rajtora stated, “The GA said they had been in touch with Don Zdeba, Water District Manager, about some potential opportunities that the District might propose.”
The Political Action Committee (PAC) provided their proposed implementation plan on the modifications for the Communication Engagement Plan at the October GA meeting. It is now up to the GA to accept the proposal. Rajtora said, “It turns out at the last meeting it was totally quiet with what the GA was going to do with the PAC proposal. The reason this is interesting is that one of the major proponents in the proposed modification is that the GA have a schedule coordinated with a budget.”
On financial activity the long awaited new financial system has yet to be implemented. This is going on the eleventh month. According to the General Manager the FY 21 Audit is consuming most of the available time. The audit is costing more and taking more time due to the fact this is the first year of inclusion of the Replenishment Fee. “You recall the WD is paying the replenishment fee under protest. I am curious to see how they handle that fact,” Rajtora said.
On Projects, Activities, and Concerns, “The last information I received regarding our ability to measure the change to groundwater in storage is still having difficulties but I understand from
“Dr Don Decker, Chairman of Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), who is working with Stetson we should expect a significant improvement in what we see in the next Annual Report. According to the last meeting schedule they have indicated that the Water Years 2022 Report is due to be available to be reviewed by the GA Board on November 15. In the meantime we have received an e-mail saying that it is going to be postponed until the 19th, but it will be magnificent if it really happens.”
The Water District did provide as an agency comments on the last annual report. Rajtora said, “The Board needs to review this annual report as well.
“As you recall, all 19 Corrective Actions are to be addressed in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) update due in 2025. I’ve been trying to get a status report and how we are coming with those 19 Corrective Actions, but so far, with no success,” he said.