Lawsuit undermines regional approach
By Jeffrey Kightlinger
Michael T. Hogan meticulously details the reasons why water rates are increasing in his recent Commentary (“Water Agencies Work to Minimize Rate Impacts”—Nov. 23). What the chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors fails to mention is the millions of dollars that will be spent on attorneys’ fees in the Water Authority’s latest legal challenge against the Metropolitan Water District’s rate structure.
As the primary provider of imported water for six Southern California counties, Metropolitan and its Board of Directors fairly allocate the costs of water through its rate structure. More than a decade ago, Metropolitan began a comprehensive process with extensive public input to develop a new regional pricing system for its 26 member public agencies—including San Diego—and the nearly 19 million residents in Metropolitan’s service area.
In 2010, seven years after the new pricing system went into effect (2003), the Water Authority filed suit against Metropolitan, challenging the rate structure and the allocation of costs.
A key issue is the Water Authority’s agreement to buy water from the Imperial Irrigation District in Imperial County. The Water Authority chose to pay more for IID water to achieve a degree of water independence and additional supply reliability.
Since the Water Authority has no pipeline to transport water from IID, it can only use Metropolitan’s facilities. Metropolitan agreed to accommodate the Water Authority’s request to transport the IID water at a set, negotiated price. The Water Authority’s lawsuit now seeks to change that price structure.
The Water Authority’s lawsuit seeks to undermine the proven, successful regional approach and replace it with cost-shifting strategies that benefit one member agency, the Water Authority, over the other 25 member agencies.
Metropolitan has built and funded a water system that is the backbone of Southern California’s $1 trillion economy. This complex system has been built and maintained for more than 80 years through Metropolitan’s cooperative, regional, cost-sharing model.
In his piece, Mr. Hogan neglects to mention the risks of adding millions of dollars in legal fees to the region’s overall water rates in the Water Authority’s latest legal gamble against Metropolitan.
Jeffrey Kightlinger is general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
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