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Borrego Water District's Meeting Talks Conservation, Credit Worthiness

 

Last updated 5/22/2015 at 3:17pm



The April 22 meeting started off with the presentation of a refund check of $33,050 to the Borrego Water District (BWD) from Joint Powers Insurance Authority. “Congratulations. You’re one of 110 agencies that have received a refund. Keep up the good work,” they were told for following best practices of the industry. Next there was a discussion about construction water sales to Ocotillo Wells Solar Farm. Vice President of the water board, Lyle Brecht said his sense is that the two water credits required by the County for the project don’t satisfy the most recent executive order or the Groundwater Management Act. “We should work with the developer so he’s willing to fallow land worth eight water credits. That would satisfy the District’s vision of providing this amount of water to that development.” He then added that he thinks the BWD would have a significant political problem in the community if they supplied water as the County has requested for two water credits only. “We need a few more water credits than what the County’s asking for. Otherwise, we’re just repeating what people have objected to; the County not really being on-board with the water reduction program that we’re trying to implement here at the District.” The representative from the Solar farm then agreed to the eight water credits. The next discussion referred to an executive order regarding emergency 25 percent mandatory water use reductions amid the California Drought. General Manager, Jerry Rolwing, said the District will be sending a comment letter regarding certain restrictions that don’t make sense for Borrego Springs. Brecht said the BWD has already conserved by fallowing farm land and wondered if they got any kind of credit for that. “The last thing I want to do in this water district is get involved in some kind of mandatory 25 percent reduction of our residential users - who have already done a huge amount of reduction.” He further stated that regulations that might make sense in metropolitan areas have no relevance here. Brecht then pointed out the fact that, “Some water users are already very conservative and have no capability of reducing more, while some extreme water users don’t conserve at all and need to reduce a lot more than 25 percent.” Many important economic aspects remain to be considered, including whether water districts reducing their financial income by 25 percent will be able to survive. Do we need to hire a water cop? Brecht thinks reduction can be achieved more effectively through incentives, encouragement and rates, rather than by command and control tactics. President Beth Hart said, “The lemonade from the lemons is that we are now required under the sustainability plan to have some kind of measured AG water usage.” Bob McKee from the audience noted that we’re at the end of the five year increase period needed to restore the District to credit worthiness. “I’m wondering if we’re sticking to the plan we were sold,” he asked. Brecht said “We originally tried to become credit worthy by fiscal year 16-17. Right now it looks like we’ll be credit worthy by fiscal 17-18.” Bob then questioned why they were laying out close to half a million dollars on a Solar project. Brecht said with a six-year payback they will be making money for the community rather than keeping it in the bank. Hart said it appeared very clearly that the gain from purchasing rather than leasing on the long-term was really to the rate-payers benefit. The board then discussed a resolution to approve a funding mechanism to borrow money in order to pay off the Viking Ranch loan. The basic savings to the rate payers is around $1 million to take out a loan to pay off the existing note. Brecht said, “We’re doing the best we can for the rate-payers by moving into a different kind of relationship that cleans up our balance sheet so we can become more credit worthy.” Details were further discussed and then the resolution was approved. Board member Joe Tatusko next reviewed Prop 1 funding which could possibly be made available to the District. The need to start getting BWD projects into the state system before the money runs out was then discussed. The next Regular Meeting of the Board of Directors is scheduled for May 27 at the Borrego Water District.

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