Voters will decide whether two rural water districts should leave the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) and get water from the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside instead.
The San Diego County Local Area Formation Commission voted Monday to allow the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District to leave SDCWA. The vote was 5-3, with San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson, Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Kristi Becker, and San Diego City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn opposed. Supervisor Jim Desmond, El Cajon Mayor Dane White, former Vista Irrigation Director Jo MacKenzie, Alpine Fire Protect District Director Baron Willis, and former North County Fire Protection District Chief Andrew Vanderlaan voted in favor of allowing detachment.
In order to split from SDCWA, Fallbrook and Rainbow will be required to pay an exit fee of $4.8 million a year for five years. According to SDCWA Chair Mel Katz, that won’t be enough to offset the departure of 56,000 ratepayers. Katz is warning that detachment would incur rate increases for the rest of San Diego County.
“Today’s unprecedented decision by San Diego LAFCO is very disappointing because it will raise water rates for disadvantaged communities, working families, 70% of agriculture in the county, small businesses and everyone else across our region,” said Katz. “We’re deeply concerned that LAFCO decided that water ratepayers across San Diego County don’t get a say in whether Fallbrook and Rainbow can walk away from their bills and shift their costs to the rest of the county.
“It’s also clear that LAFCO failed to study the environmental impacts of its decision, as required by state law — a serious breach of public confidence in a system that’s supposed to protect us all,” he added.
But Fallbrook and Rainbow say the split is necessary to bring relief to their ratepayers, especially those in the agricultural sector. They “have been burdened for years by skyrocketing water costs from the County Water Authority,” said Fallbrook Public Utility District Manager Jack Bebee.
Read more at Times of San Diego.