Following dueling motions and another tirade against Small Farm customers by Director Greg Prada, the El Dorado Irrigation District board voted 4-1 to follow Board President Alan Day’s recommended watering regime.
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It took three hours to reach that vote.
Day’s watering regime, outlined in an April 3 e-mail to General Manager Jim Abercrombie, calls for twice weekly watering allowed April 16 through June 15, kicking up to three times a week June 16 through Sept. 16, after which it would go back to twice a week until Nov. 15 when it would decline to weekly. In case of rain irrigation systems should be shut off.
The watering schedule would apply to all rate classes. Exemptions, such as golf courses, would be allowed provided they submit a plan for a 30 percent water saving, as Serrano Country Club did at the March 24 meeting.
Losing on a 2-3 vote was Director George Osborne’s motion to implement a 30 percent drought surcharge on Tier 3 rates along with Day’s watering regime.
Prada earlier made a motion to allow watering three times a week to begin April 15 through Oct. 15 but received no second. He later made a motion to adopt watering hours and make no change to the drought plan. That motion received a second but lost on a 1-4 vote.
“I’m concerned if we don’t do something the bills will go out in July and we’ll be behind the curve,” Osborne said.
“If we have 30 percent on Tier 3 we have a signal,” said Director Bill George.
Director Dale Coco, taking note of Prada’s reference that Single-Family Residential customers have reduced their water consumption as a result of rate increases over the past several years, noted that proves price does affect conservation. However, Coco, said he didn’t want to consider a drought surcharge until the May 12 meeting.
“The water consumption is 3 percent above average,” Abercrombie said. “They are not conserving.”
“Through the first quarter of the year to date we basically got nothing. Zero (conservation),” Coco said.
“What we do over the next few months will tell,” Day said.
“If we wait two months that water is gone,” Coco said. At which point President Day interrupted him by banging the gavel, saying board discussion was only allowed if there was a motion on the floor.
“I can hold this microphone as long as I can,” Coco responded.
The meeting was held in EID’s larger basement meeting room, which required directors to share a couple of microphones.
Day then appealed to General Counsel Tom Cumptson, who said, “The No. 1 message is unity and collegiality. I don’t think it is necessary for me to make parliamentary rules.” Cumpston added that it’s equally alright “when the chair allows a member to talk.”
And with that Prada launched into his mantra that residential customers have saved 18 percent from 2011-2013, but “Small Farm customers haven’t gone down. You’ll find residential ratepayers have really chipped in. Why should we be sending price signals to 33,000 residential users? Send price signals to those using… I think it’s too late. Let’s do something about the Small Farm rate. I think this is a diversionary tactic. We need a program that focuses at where the water users are: Recycled Water, Small Farm, even Ag. Ag has been cut to zero across the state… Rates have plummeted for ag. We have four times the number of Small Farms. Let’s send some price signals to those groups.”
“Small Farm rate? What other district has one? We need to totally overall our rate structure or rationalize it,” Prada said.
“I am a little dismayed with this proposal brought forward with staff,” Day said.”I’m starting to wonder is EID interested in getting more money or conserving water? (Surcharges) needs to be taken off the table. Twenty percent goes to ag, small ag, the faux farm. Faux farm use is excluded.”
“First of all, farmers in the valley have ground water. We do not,” said Osborne. “There’s a group put together on the Small Farm rate. For the sake of argument we can throw out all sorts of numbers … that blur things, (such as) 25 percent of the people don’t belong on it (Small Farm rate). Let’s get on with the drought. The issue is to save water. The objective is to save water. The issue is we need 25,000 acre-feet in Jenkinson Lake at the end of the year. Any surcharge is a message. We have to save water.”
“Ag doesn’t run EID,” said Prada, “Yet we delegate (to the ag commissioner).”
“We make up theoretical rates,” Prada said. “I am really, really burned that this whole Small Farm mess was made up by staff. We created this Small Farm rate. We’re going to stand up for residential customers. We need to get out of it. Recreational Turf (customers) ought to sue the district. If we want to do something serious let’s do something for the true agriculturist and get rid of all this BS.”
Coco asked General Counsel Cumpston if he was comfortable with the Cost of Service Study and the rate classes. “Yes, the Cost of Service study justifies the rate structure. All rates meet Proposition 218,” Cumpston said.
Coco said, “Last meeting I suggested to put Small Farm in Ag (Metered Irrigation). It’s not practical. They are separated by size.” Coco said Prada’s demand to eliminate the Small Farm rate would require a Proposition 218 hearing and vote. “I think it’s time to put it on the back burner.”