Prada votes against drought declaration: Letter to the editor statements of fact countered

By From page A1 | July 02, 2014

The drought remains very much on the mind of the board of the El Dorado Irrigation District as it took up three different agenda items having to do with the issue at Monday’s meeting.

In addition the board reviewed a detailed staff response to a letter to the editor from Director Greg Prada on the topic of small farm rates.

Attracting unanimity was a resolution adopting the updated American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. Doing so allows the district to continue to submit projects to the Regional Water Authority, including grant proposals to be submitted under the Proposition 84 drought funding and future Department of Water Resource grant opportunities.

Last year, the district submitted four different projects as part of the Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, including Main Ditch piping, the Sly Park Intertie lining, recycled water seasonal storage and the Caples Lake spillway channel stabilization.

The board also voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution maintaining the drought declaration for purposes of bidding, contracting and CEQA compliance. The lone no vote was cast by Prada.

During the discussion, Director George Osborne noted that the community of Outingdale was now only allowed 68 gallons of water per person per day because the state had pulled Outingdale’s water rights. He also mentioned that the chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board had commented on how poorly the state was doing in conserving water. “That’s why we keep hammering away on this drought resolution,” he said. “If we don’t get another wet winter, we won’t have water for next year.”

However, an item to reconsider implementing drought water rates failed on a 2-3 vote, with Directors Prada, Bill George and Alan Day voting no and Osborne and Dale Coco voting yes. Instead Prada suggested staff conduct “dawn patrols” to see if people are complying with the irrigation schedule.

Small farm rate

On a different matter, Prada’s April 11 letter to the Mountain Democrat regarding the district’s small farm rate was also discussed, with staff providing a point-by-point response to different portions of the letter.

Prada had stated in his letter that, “In 2009, EID reduced the small farm rate 37 percent.”

Staff responded by saying, “In 2009, the district adopted a change in the cost recovery methodology to collect 30 percent of revenue from fixed charges and 70 percent of revenue from variable commodity charges for water service. Prior to 2009, the district used the cost recovery methodology of collecting approximately 50 percent of revenue from fixed charges and 50 percent of revenue from variable commodity charges. This resulted in changes to all customer class base and commodity charges. Specifically the 5/8 inch small farm base charge decreased by 65 percent while the commodity rate increased by 20 percent for the first tier and 12 percent for the next tier. Some of the larger size meter base charges for small farm customers increased … The changes were made in order to comply with the California Urban Water Conservation Council Best Management Practices II, designed to be revenue neutral, and were not restricted to any one class.”

Prada went on to say in his letter that, “In 2012, EID reduced the small farm rate another 15 percent more.”

Staff responded by saying, “In 2012, the district returned to the cost recovery methodology of collecting 50 percent of revenue from fixed charges and 50 percent of revenue from variable commodity charges for water service. The small farm base charge increased by 83 percent although the commodity rate decreased for all tiers. The commodity rate decreased by 14 percent for indoor potable water use from 2011 to align with tier 1 for the residential class and decreased by 17-37 percent, depending upon tier to align with the agricultural class structure.”

Prada’s letter also stated that, “But in the last three years, EID has relaxed its small farm eligibility requirements and allowed the number of ratepayers receiving small farm rate to quadruple to 720.”

Staff responded, saying, “As demonstrated in the district’s Administrative Regulation … there have been minimal changes pertaining to small farm qualification requirements over the last eight years. None of the changes relaxed the small farm rate requirements. Additionally, staff previously proposed more stringent small farm requirements at the March 24 regular board meeting. Most of the increase in small farm customers is directly related to the elimination of the district’s domestic irrigation rate.” The DI rate was eliminated as a result of the Cost of Services Study. Prada was a member of that study committee. The staff report noted that it was understood by committee members that possibly 33 percent of the approximately 1,200 displaced DI customers might qualify for the small farm rate, and those that didn’t would be moved to the single-family rate class.

Prada’s letter went on, “In turn, acre-feet sold at the special $49 far-below-cost rate has surged to nearly 2,000 acre-feet.”

Staff responded by saying that, “the increase in water sold at the small farm rate is directly attributable to the increase in small farm customers following the elimination of the DI rate category. In 2012, 390 small farm customers and 1,178 DI customers used a total of 2,738 acre-feet of water. In 2013, 717 small farm customers used a total of 1,923 acre-feet of water, or 2.7 acre-feet per service. The annual use of small farm customers has decreased from 2.90 acre-feet per service in 2012 to 2.70 acre-feet per service in 2013.”

Prada then stated that “EID’s $49 per acre-foot small farm water rate has barely increased since 2008 while residential rates have sky-rocketed to $829 per acre-foot.”

Staff responded that Prada initially offered no calculations to support the claimed $49 and $829 rates. They further stated that Prada did not include the base charge, different tier rates and seasonal variations in use. “If so, they misrepresent what an actual annual customer bill would be,” the report stated.

At the board meeting, Prada explained that he discounted the base charge, which is the same for everyone with a 3/4 inch meter and simply compared what people paid per cubic foot based on their water usage. That was how he calculated the difference between what residential and small farm customers paid.

However, staff compared what a residential customer would be billed against a small farm customer for using one acre-foot in a year and came up with a total of $1,055.71 for the residential customer and $514.17 for the small farm customer.

Staff went on to say that the difference in rates was adopted as a result of the cost of service study, which Prada voted for at the time.

The staff report concluded that “the district converted Ag customers from an open ditch raw water service to a piped system to conserve water, which directly benefited the district’s other customers. Among the benefits of this conversion is the 2010 long-term Warren Act contract authorizing the district to take up to 4,560 acre-feet annually of water from Folsom Reservoir from supplies that formerly served only agricultural customers via open ditches. This conserved supply now exclusively benefits and serve the district’s customers in El Dorado Hills.

“The cost of service committee agreed and in 2012, the board approved the recommendation not to charge the Ag customers treated water costs for Ag water because they could have continued to utilize the raw water open-ditch system, but were converted by the district for the benefit of non-agricultural customers. That is why there is a difference between Ag and single-family residential rates.”

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Dawn Hodson

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