Are you shocked by the recent increase in your water bill from Soquel Creek Water District? Join the crowd of ratepayers who are now finding their water bill is outrageously high, even though they are making great efforts to conserve as much water as possible.
Maybe you were not aware of this proposed rate increase public hearing and your ability to protest it because that was buried at the end of the glossy full-color mailer that many people just tossed. Maybe you read the material and saw the District’s unsubstantiated claim that made the impending rate increases seem reasonably acceptable:
“If the proposed rate/service charge changes are approved, it’s estimated that over 70% of residential customers would experience a monthly increase of $5 or less. Households which consume more water than average will pay more per unit of water (1 unit–748 gallons). It’s also estimated that the vast majority (98%) of business water accounts would experience an increase of about 40-cents per unit of water.”
Regardless, the Board has taken action that is and will cause great financial hardship for many families and people on fixed incomes, despite extreme diligence at conserving all the water they can. Why are these shockingly – high increases needed, and what can you do about it now?
The reason the District raised rates so much is to bring in enough money to fund the PureWater Soquel Project, which would cost an estimated $90 million to construct but closer to $200 million if you add in the debt service that would be required for loans and possibly bonds.
The District hired an outside agent, Raftelis Consultants, to develop a new rate structure that would bring in enough money for the PureWater Soquel Project.
The former 4-tiered rate structure was deemed illegal in legal action brought against the District by ratepayer Jon Cole, because the District was illegally collecting money for a chromium 6 treatment plant that does not exist.
At a Board meeting held on November 6, 2018, Directors voted unanimously to adopt a rate increase scenario that assumed NO grant money available for the $90 million necessary for “basin recovery”, aka the PureWater Soquel Project, and would set expensive Tier 2 rates for customers using more than 6 units of water to fund the Project.
The Board instructed Raftelis to create necessary materials to prepare for a February 19, 2019 public hearing that the Prop 218 rate increase process would require. That process required that 51% of the 15,800 service connection ratepayers sent in written protest, following a precise format in order to be legally accepted.
The Board hired a lobbyist in Washington, D.C for $45,000/year to lobby for a $20 million federal grant to build the Project (and recently renewed that contract for a second year). The Board and staff have made numerous trips themselves to Washington, D.C. to meet with federal grantor agents, and have paid to bring the lobbyist to San Jose to meet with staff in exclusive hotels for regular “PureWater Team Building” updates.
It would seem that for the District, it’s all about getting more money, and the Board of Directors refuses to ask the City of Santa Cruz for extra water when it is available.
County reports and hydrologic studies have shown there is plenty of water available regionally, but there is a problem with storage. If Soquel Creek Water District would be willing to work with the City of Santa Cruz, and even apply for new water rights that are available, the expensive PureWater Soquel Project would not be needed.
What Can You Do Now?
- Sign this On-line Protest Petition! http://chng.it/ghKLv5SJ
- Write the Board of Directors (firstname.lastname@example.org) and send letters to Board of Directors, Soquel Creek Water District, 5180 Soquel Drive, Soquel, CA 95073.
- Attend Board meetings and publicly question the District Board of Directors about their actions. The Board meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, 6pm, at the Capitola City Council Chambers at City Hall. Public Comment opportunities are immediately at the beginning of the meeting, within the first few minutes unless there is a public hearing on an issue (Sept. 17 has a Public Hearing on the Triennial Water Quality Report and Findings).
As ratepayers, we can organize and fight back. There is no need for families and those on fixed incomes to struggle under this financial hardship, imposed upon us to pay for an expensive project that is simply not necessary, whose high energy demands would be extremely costly to maintain, and that would be environmentally damaging.
— Kris Kirby, Aptos