In the 70s, Inyo officials refused to sign away their EIR case against DWP pumping. The general manager back then stated that he would put meters on Owens Valley homes to punish people for failure to agree with LA. That was the start of contention over water rates that continues today.
Before meters, residents at the source of Los Angeles water paid a flat rate of $7 per month. That was a kind of compensation form losing most of the water to the aqueduct.
In the 80s, Inyo Supervisors, Greg James and County Counsel Paul Bruce negotiated away the famous EIR case for the Long Term Water Agreement. Against many citizens wishes, the Agreement handed over town water systems to the County.
Today, the Inyo Board has decided to spend about $70,000 to hire a consultant to evaluate the water systems in Lone Pine, Independence and Laws to see what the systems need and the level of rates.
Citizens argue that the town water system hand-over to Inyo was for the purpose of holding low water rates to mitigate the loss of groundwater through pumping. Now, officials say that the mitigation was free groundwater from LADWP, not necessarily low water rates.
The depressed economy of Southern Inyo makes the prospect of higher water rates even more depressing. Residents are talking having to make choices like basic living expenses versus watering lawns and gardens.
Inyo Public Works Director Ron Chegwidden said that a request for proposals for the water system study have gone out. Bids are due in by December 28th.
However, Proposition 218 does say that entities can not raise water rates if a majority of customers object. The three water systems include 940 customers.
Chegwidden said officials know how sensitive the rate increase issue is. He said they will look for alternatives to find a beneficial rate structure. He couldn’t say what it would be at this point.