Inyo Supervisors Talk Water Rates

With water systems that cost more than they take in, the Inyo Supervisors continue to discuss possible rate hikes for Lone Pine, Independence, and Laws.

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. To allow residents to keep their lawns green and their trees alive, the county agreed to keep water rates low.

Now the history of past agreements has come home to roost. Faced with systems that dont generate enough money for upkeep and improvements, the county appears to be considering another rate hike.

When the county took over the systems, Los Angeles was supposed to upgrade the systems. Inyo Public Works Director Ron Chegwidden explained that after a low ball offer by the City, Inyo County used fire codes to get DWP to agree to $2.5 million dollars in upgrades. Chegwidden told the Supervisors that by no means did the money pay for all the improvements needed.

How much rates will go up appears to be an unknown and depends on how much work the systems need. The Supervisors appear to be leaning toward spending $75,000 to hire a consultant to look into system needs and rates.

Another issue that the county faces is that under state proposition 218, any water rate hike has to be approved by rate payers.

If the county does put a rate hike before the people, there will likely be opposition.

Lone Pine Resident Joe Ruiz suggested a flat water rate. As for the Long Term Water Agreement, Ruiz said that maybe signing the agreement was a big mistake.

Supervisor Jim Bilyeu said that it takes a lot of water in this climate to get things to live. Bilyeu pointed out that with elderly people on fixed incomes, he guaranteed that a rate increase would lead to dry lawns and gardens.

He went on to say that the supervisors are trying to come up with a way to be fair, but still pay for the systems. Not an easy task, Bilyeu said.

The proposal to hire a consultant to do a rate study is slated for the Supervisors meeting in two weeks.

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