Page 8 Sometimes bigger is better
By Sandra Bauer We have lived in North Tus-
tin (Sewer Service Area 7) since 1995. The Local Agency Forma- tion Commission (Lafco) is cur- rently determining whether East Orange County Water District (EOCWD) or Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) should maintain Service Area 7 in future years. We have reviewed the EOCWD, IRWD and Lafco websites and believe that IRWD is best able to provide service.
Sanitation experience: EO- CWD provides water services to customers in and around Orange and Tustin. EOCWD provides no sewer services; its full-time staff of six includes no sewer crews or equipment. IRWD provides water and sewer services to customers in Tustin, Orange Park Acres, Ir- vine, Costa Mesa, Newport and Lake Forest. IRWD has a staff of about 350, including trained sani- tation crews and sophisticated sanitation and recycling equip- ment.
Sanitation rates: EOCWD in- dicates that it can provide sewer services to our area for a rate 10 percent lower than we currently pay to Orange County Water Dis- trict (OCWD). IRWD indicates that it can provide sewer services to our area for a rate 50 percent lower.
Capital reserves for sewer im- provements: EOCWD capital reserves for water services total less than $25 million; it has no re- serves for sewer services. EOC- WD is uncertain whether reserves will be adequate to fund future improvements in its service area and indicates that it may need to borrow funds to do so. For fiscal year 2015-16, IRWD has capital reserves of $92 million for its sew- er services (not including water).
Wastewater reclamation: EO- CWD and IRWD are both mem- ber agencies of OCWD, which enables both agencies to pump from the groundwater basin at fa- vorable rates. As members, both agencies are equally vested in the success of OCWD basin manage- ment practices, including the Los Alamitos seawater intrusion bar- rier. IRWD and EOCWD have committed to continue sending flows from Service Area 7 to the Orange County Sanitation Dis- trict; our treated sewer flows will provide benefits and conserve po- table resources under either sce- nario.
Future regulations: Regula- tions governing sanitation and water services are extensive, and will become more extensive and costly as California’s population grows. IRWD has long engaged in policy and regulatory develop- ment at the state level, and has the funds, staffing and experience
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Guest Commentary Community water spokesman explores the details
to influence future legislation to keep our costs low. EOCWD is a small agency with limited staff and declining reserves; it does not have the resources to significant- ly participate in proactive policy and legislation.
Local control: IRWD and EO- CWD boards of directors have five members that live in the ser- vice area, are elected by other residents of the service area, and serve for four-year terms. Area 7 residents will have many oppor- tunities to seek election as board members and participate in local control, whether through EOC- WD or IRWD.
Our future water service: Most important is the future of our wa- ter service. Most of us in Area 7 want to replace Golden State (GSW) as our water supplier. GSW charges the highest water rates in Orange County: rough- ly $340 a month for a large lot, compared with $120 in IRWD and $250 in EOCWD. Ojai and Claremont are also trying to ter- minate Golden State in favor of local service. Ojai’s legal battle (ratepayers have already paid over $7.3 million) reached a mile- stone this April. The Court of Ap- peals found that the Mello-Roos Act can be used to finance Ca- sitas Municipal Water District’s acquisition of Golden State’s wa- ter system in Ojai using eminent domain; with Casitas, Ojai has had a very strong partner in this effort. Both agencies are willing to help us, but only IRWD has the financial depth, staffing and legal resources (including eminent do- main, if required) needed to win this battle. If our sewer services go to EOCWD, we will lose the chance to have IRWD as a pow- erful partner in our fight against Golden State.
Sandra Bauer of North Tustin
is a principal of Bauer Planning & Environmental Services, Inc., an environmental and planning consulting company.
The community is invited to “Anything Goes” on Nov. 12, the 10th annual concert presented by the Instrumental Music Depart- ment at Villa Park High School. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and
the concert begins at 7 p.m. At the downbeat, “Anything Goes!” The Jazz Band will kick off the perfor-
John Sears has been active in informing the North Tustin com- munity about replacing Golden State as its water supplier. As residents embrace the advantages of local control for water service, many now advocate the same for sewer service. The current de- bate over the most suitable oper- ator for the Area 7 sewer system has raised new questions about the relationship between water and sewer service, and what that means to residents.
Could the East Orange County Water District (EOCWD) af- ford to acquire Golden State Water (GSW)? Yes, as a wholesale water sup-
plier EOCWD could easily oper- ate the local GSW water system. As a government agency, it would acquire the bonds for acquisi- tion of GSW. Before doing so, however, GSW customers would need to make a formal request and approve the bond amount and repayment process. The acqui- sition cost and legal fees are the responsibility of ratepayers. In addition, EOCWD has a good re- lationship in its business dealings with GSW. This could help with a smooth transition.
Would Irvine Ranch Water Dis- trict’s (IRWD) water be cheap- er then EOCWD water? It is hard to know what the cost
of water from IRWD for each property would be. During many meetings with
IRWD, Principal Engineer Mike Hoolihan showed us charts and graphs, and attempted to explain what our costs would be. He es- sentially said, “If your water bill is too high, call us, and we will come out and see if your property qualifies for a special allocation rate.” We were expecting clarity and did not get it.
Why is it so confusing? In May, Hoolihan provided the
latest rate chart to be effective this past September. Since then, a schedule with contingencies
Anything goes At VPHS
mance with an arrangement of the theme song. The tunes that follow will include songs from “Sesame Street,” “A Chorus Line,” Mi- chael Buble, the Carpenters, plus ballads and Latin numbers. The concert will be held in the Performing Arts Center at school. Admission is free.
and modifications has been post- ed online. The information from this site adds some troublesome variables to IRWD’s original stat- ed cost of water. For example, no allocation for large properties is given unless it is “watered by drip irrigation.” The “percent of allocation” is shown with rates in place of the usual cost of water per 100 cubic feet. The sched- ule also says if you have a lawn (instead of drought-tolerant land- scaping), you will likely be over allocation and receive a higher bill. In addition, “Proof acceptable
to the district will be required for each ground(s) of variance;” “Approvals are valid for a period specified by the district (one year or less), and must be resubmitted on or before the expiration date to remain in effect.” With these variables it is not possible to say to each property owner what their cost of water would be from IRWD, if in fact it were to take over from GSW. By comparison, EOCWD has
a clear method to calculate the cost of water. It has only one tier priced at $2.67 per CCF, plus $20.50 for a ¾-inch meter and $20 for existing water system capital projects. Thus, it is very easy to see the cost of water.
What about the sewers? Sewer Area 7 is 95 percent in
East Orange County Water Dis- trict’s service territory. It could easily service those sewers now, and later take on the water that is now delivered here by GSW.
Is EOCWD financially capable to service the sewers? Yes. It is using the pay-as-you-
go model set in motion by the OC Sanitation District. In addition, the county district will transfer $30 million to EOCWD for sewer projects. EOCWD has no debt, no unfunded pensions and ample cash on hand in the millions. There would be no interrupted service; EOCWD will employ the same sewer technicians who
Open House will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19. Enjoy the spirit of the season with Trinity United Presbyterian’s handbell choir and the Foothill High School Dickens Carolers. The Boys and Girls Club of Tus- tin Choir, the Southern California
currently work for the Sanitation District.
Should IRWD take over the sewer lines in our streets, in front of our homes? The residents of unincorporat-
ed North Tustin and Tustin would be left with little influence and no local control if the sewer system is awarded to IRWD.
Why would this be so? IRWD’s population, compared
to Area 7 residents, is lopsided; the results of our vote for any change would be ineffectual. The 250,000-300,000 residents of the IRWD service area would over- whelm any voting opportunity our residents might have in the future. For example, the IRWD governing board would be in con- trol here, but our vote to change it would have little effect.
Wouldn’t we save money by having IRWD? Yes, I would as well. IRWD
says it will lower rates by $108; EOCWD has offered a $21 de- crease. That makes the total po- tential reduction $87. The ques- tion is, what are we giving up for a once-a-year savings that amounts to $87, or 22 cents per day? We give up representation, a local water/sewer board, and the right to vote our locally-elected board members in or out, as nec- essary, year after year.
Would some in our community really sell our representation and voting rights to save $87 per year? I hope not. The expansion of
IRWD into our unique area is even preferred by some who live here, perhaps not realizing how, over time, Irvine’s presence would change the character of un- incorporated North Tustin and the surrounding communities. I believe that this is one of the
reasons that the cities of Tustin, Orange, Villa Park and others op- pose Irvine’s move into our area, starting now with the sewers.
Enjoy the festivities at Enderle The Enderle Center Holiday
Philharmonic String Ensemble, and the HBP Dance Extreme and Tustin Dance Studio will also perform. Face painters, balloon and caricature artists will add to the merriment. The Tustin Police Department has invited Santa and his sleigh to be there on behalf of the Make a Wish foundation.
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