City's response to Central Basin

Dear Editor:The City of Downey, along with Cerritos, Signal Hill, Pico Rivera, and Bellflower, has taken action to protect our residents against illegal and excessive water replenishment fees imposed by the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD). It is certainly true that WRD must perform a replenishment function for the benefit of all who rely upon the groundwater in the basins; however it is patently false that residents must pay WRD's fees whether they are legal or not.

Mr. James Glancy, as chairman of the Central Basin Water Association and representing the City of Lakewood, has taken the lead in attacking Downey and the other cities for enforcing the rights of its residents. Downey and the other cities have successfully challenged the questionable fees imposed by WRD which constitute up to 40% of our residents' water bills.

Mr. Glancy notably omits in his letter published in the Downey Patriot on March 1 that the Superior Court twice ruled that the replenishment fee charged by WRD are wholly unconstitutional and illegal. (City of Cerritos, et al vs. WRD, No. BS128136.) The voters of California passed Proposition 218 to ensure procedural and substantive mandates designed to protect against excessive fees.

WRD has repeatedly refused to submit its unwarranted fees to the voting and proportionality requirements set forth in Proposition 218, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overcharges to our residents and others overlying the Central Basin District. Additionally, WRD has refused to make any refunds or to provide some other remedy to Downey to address its willful violations.

A trial is scheduled soon to address the refund Downey and other cities are entitled to as a result of the unlawful and excessive fees charged by WRD.

Rather than demand that WRD comply with the law, Mr. Glancy, on behalf of some in the Central Basin Water Association, has chosen to attack Downey and the other Cities, who have chosen to safeguard their residents' funds. As public agencies, Downey and the other Cities, have withheld payment of illegal fees to avoid making gifts of public funds to WRD.

Indeed, the Court denied WRD's request to shut down the Cities' wells for non-payment. In this case, the Court's ruling that WRD violated ALL requirements of Proposition 218 is especially significant, because WRD's fees make up a whopping 40% of our residents' water bills.

It is important to note that Downey and the other Cities own their water rights and do not purchase any water from WRD. WRD imposes a fee as a tax upon the Cities' groundwater pumping and may use those funds only for limited replenishment functions.

However, WRD has for many years taxed the cities excessively without voter review. It is difficult to understand why some other cities in the Central Basin Water Association, such as Lakewood, would continue to support WRD's illegal and excessive fees to the detriment of its own residents.

Perhaps Mr. Glancy needs to explain to the families and businesses in Downey the true reasons behind his assertions that we should continue to pay WRD's unlawful assessment.

The residents and business owners of Downey have the right to question and demand that any payment for their unlawful assessments to WRD be stopped immediately. The residents of Downey can be assured that its elected officials will continue to work hard to protect its best interests and comply with the law.

I, for one, will not sit idle as a gross injustice is forced upon the residents of Downey.

Alex Saab Downey City Councilman

********** Published: March 7, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 47