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San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Threat Emerges to Reduce Water Supply Reliability, Fracture Region

Thank you for your support over the past two years. It’s been an honor to serve as the chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. While some may not realize it, this 36-member Board plays a critical role in sustaining San Diego County’s quality of life and economy.

And I’m pleased to say that this Board engages in the difficult discussions and decisions to make sure our children and grandchildren enjoy the same safe and secure water supplies that we enjoy today. Unfortunately, it’s also true that efforts are underway that would undermine decades of successful planning that has served our county well from Fallbrook to San Ysidro.

This week, the Water Authority filed a formal response to address a proposal by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to detach from the Water Authority and annex into Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. These proposals would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.

Our detailed filing with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) spells out how the Fallbrook and Rainbow detachment proposals contain significant areas of misleading or incomplete information that must be addressed before LAFCO and all of the interested parties countywide can understand the full scope of impacts that would be created by detachment. The LAFCO process is expected to take at least another year.

As proposed by Fallbrook and Rainbow, the detachments would allow Fallbrook and Rainbow to avoid paying for water supplies and infrastructure that have been developed in collaboration with those agencies and are currently being used by those agencies to meet their customers’ needs. Abandoning those cost obligations would force other ratepayers countywide to cover their portion of the bills already incurred for decades of investments in supply reliability.

Our agency’s analysis shows that detachment, as proposed, would reduce water reliability and increase risk for Rainbow and Fallbrook customers, create environmental impacts that haven’t been studied, and impair the successful long-term planning efforts that have served our county well. And it would give Riverside County water agencies more control over San Diego County’s water future, including water rate and property tax impacts. The Water Authority’s formal response to the Fallbrook/Rainbow reorganization proposals and related documents are at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-reorganization.

It’s critical that LAFCO and all the interested parties across San Diego County take the time to address the full scope of consequences created by these unprecedented proposals so we avoid unintended harm to our region. The Water Authority, its member agencies and regional planning agencies such as SANDAG have worked together for more than 75 years to provide this region with safe and reliable water supplies. Trying to turn back the clock now is a costly, difficult process with numerous impacts to Fallbrook and Rainbow customers and across the region.

As we transition to the new Board leadership in October, I trust that you will give incoming Chair Gary Croucher and Vice Chair Christy Guerin the same support that you’ve given to me over the past two years. And don’t forget that whatever the challenges, San Diego County is stronger together.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.

Water Agencies Plan to Abandon Costs, Reduce Supply Reliability

Analysis released today shows that proposals by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to leave the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.

Numerous financial, environmental and legal issues that affect property owners and water users across San Diego County are analyzed in the Water Authority’s formal response to the reorganization proposals filed today with the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO.

Fallbrook Rattlesnake Tank Artwork Honors High School Seniors

Each year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road is painted with new numbers. There’s a story about local Fallbrook history behind the fresh design on the “Rattlesnake Tank.” The District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate.

Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on its Rattlesnake Tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Fallbrook Rattlesnake Tank Artwork Honors High School Seniors

Each year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road is painted with new numbers. There’s a story about local Fallbrook history behind the fresh design on the “Rattlesnake Tank.”

The Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Staff recently painted over the “20,” changing it to “21” to welcome the graduating class of 2021.

The reason for the annual external makeover dates back 35 years. Prior to painting the tank, Fallbrook High seniors took on a longstanding dare. They would climb up the hill in the middle of the night, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.

“Since it’s a long way down, our staff of more than 35 years ago became concerned for their safety,” said Fallbrook’s Noelle Denke. “So we installed a fence around the tank.”

But it didn’t deter the energetic students. Instead, they just began jumping the fence in the middle of the night. So the District struck a deal with the students. If they would stop risking their safety for the dare, the district would safely paint the tank every year to commemorate them.

“And we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.

Safely saluting seniors with 25-foot high signage

Fallbrook Public Utility District utility workers Colter Shannon and Bryan Wagner do the honors changing the painted numbers on Rattlesnake Tank for the Class of 2021. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Fallbrook Public Utility District utility workers Colter Shannon and Bryan Wagner do the honors of changing the painted numbers on Rattlesnake Tank for the Class of 2021. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

It takes District staff about eight hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank. Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, the Fallbrook Public Utility District makes arrangements with them to power-down their towers. Then crews safely hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work painting.

Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of Fallbrook’s oldest and most visible water tanks.

FPUD Staff Receives Bebee’s Performance Bonus

Jack Bebee, general manager of Fallbrook Public Utility District, earned his performance bonus but will not receive that money.

A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Aug. 24, gave the $5,000 that Bebee would have received to the rest of FPUD’s staff. Each staff member will receive a $75 stipend.

“Instead of paying me a performance bonus this year, we divided the money that was set aside,” Bebee said. “My recommendation to the board was to do that. They’re incurring more challenges during this period that I am.”

When all staff positions are filled, FPUD has 67 employees including Bebee. Three positions are currently vacant, so 63 FPUD employees will receive a stipend.

FPUD to Refinance Debt for Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Fallbrook Public Utility District will be refinancing its debt for the wastewater treatment plant.

A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Aug. 24, approved the development of a financing plan and debt documents. FPUD expects to reduce its payments by $1.1 million over a 15-year period, or approximately $73,000 annually.

“With the current low interest rate environment, we had the opportunity to save a substantial amount of money,” Jack Bebee, FPUD general manager, said.

FPUD Approves Additional LAFCO Deposit

San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission requires a deposit to process applications to LAFCO for jurisdictional changes, and the Fallbrook Public Utility District will be providing an additional deposit to process the application for FPUD to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District.

A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Monday, Aug. 24, authorized an additional $62,220 deposit to LAFCO. The deposit is expected to cover an additional 510 hours of LAFCO staff time at LAFCO’s rate of $122 per hour.

LAFCO Detachment Committee Discusses CEQA, Conditions, Consultants

The items discussed at the Aug. 3 meeting of the advisory committee on the Fallbrook/Rainbow detachment created by San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission included whether the reorganization was subject to California Environmental Quality Act review, whether LAFCO can place conditions on the detachment, and the use of consultants to address issues on which parties differ.

FPUD to Replace Backflow Prevention Devices

When the Fallbrook Public Utility District approved FPUD’s 2020-2021 budget $500,000 was appropriated for the district’s valve replacement program. The July 27 FPUD board meeting reallocated some of that amount for the purchase of backflow prevention devices.

“It’s just a project to maintain and upgrade some of the backflow devices,” Jack Bebee, general manager of FPUD, said.

FPUD Approves Meter Replacement Purchases

The Fallbrook Public Utility District is in the process of replacing Automatic Meter Reading meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure meters, and a July 27 FPUD board vote approved the purchases for the fifth year of the program.

The 5-0 vote approved $532,088.90 of purchases including sales tax for meters, encoder receiver transmitters, and antennas. The purchases will provide the district with 1,308 Badger meters of various sizes from National Meter and Automation Inc. for $320,785 plus sales tax and 1,301 Itron encoder receiver transmitters and antennas from Inland Works Water Supply Company for $173,730.50 not including sales tax.