Water Rate Debate at Inyo Supervisors

With town water systems that cost more than they take in, the Inyo Supervisors continue to discuss possible rate hikes for Lone Pine, Independence, and Laws. With a consultant hired to look at water rates, the Inyo Supervisors held a workshop to reiterate how past agreements led the county to the current situation.

As part of the Long Term Water Agreement with the City of Los Angeles, Inyo County agreed to take the town water systems off DWPs hands. As mitigation for groundwater pumping damage, the county agreed to keep water rates low, allowing residents to keep their lawns green and their trees alive.

When rates go up, water use goes down. Supervisor Richard Cervantes explained that higher rates would fly in the face of the Long Term Water Agreement. Citing dead trees along Whitney Portal and Tuttle Creek Roads, Cervantes said that I don’t see that Lone Pine has ever recovered.

The problem with the water systems as explained by Inyo Public Works Director Ron Chegwidden, is that the systems don’t generate enough money for upkeep and improvements.

How much more money the systems need remains an unknown. A rate study is underway to figure out how much rates could change in order to balance the books, but the county put $100,000 of general fund money into the systems last year and has budgeted a similar amount for this year. The rate study is expected to cost around $70,000.

Lone Pine Resident Joe Ruiz told the supervisors that county officials should have seen this financial mess over the water systems coming when they signed the water agreement.

There was also discussion of throwing in the towel and letting the state take over the systems as well as the fact the ultimately the rate payer will have to make the call. Under California Proposition 218, water rate hikes have to be approved by the rate payers, something that may not have a lot of support in Southern Inyo County.

With the results of the rate study still months away, Supervisor Linda Arcularius said that she was hopeful that people will step up to the plate and see that the rates are reasonable and that the control of the water remains local.”


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