DOWNEY - Citing not only gross violations of its constitutional and regulatory mandates, especially its replenishment assessment (RA) practices, but also its fundamentally "unfair and inequitable" handling of these and other issues, the cities of Downey, Cerritos and Signal Hill have filed a suit against the Water Replenishment District, the agency created by law to manage the water used by the residents and business establishments in these cities and others that share the same water table.In Downey's case, according to deputy city manager and acknowledged water expert Desi Alvarez, WRD overstepped the line when it raised its RA unit charge to $205 per acre-foot for FY2010-11 from $181.85/af the year before. The suit alleges that RAs have risen every year, from $138/af in FY2006-07, to $143/af in 2008-09, and to $183 in 2009-10. The RAs are, of course, passed on to the consumer. "Over these last few years we have noted these increases with alarm and taken issue with WRD, but our complaints were always ignored," said Alvarez. "Its latest RA increase was the straw that broke the camel's back, especially because of today's bleak economic climate. Our water bill is one of the city's biggest expenses." Briefly, water is pumped from underground water found in the Central (which Downey overlays) and West Coast Basins which account for the LA County area. It is WRD's responsibility to replenish and (this function was later added) to clean up this underground water from contaminants. The two basins have a natural geophysical barrier in the so-called Newport-Inglewood Uplift that effectively separates the two basins. To raise money to perform its essential functions, WRD can employ various means, including, as its name implies, charging a replenishment assessment, or tax, for replenishing the water by local purchase or "importation" from the Colorado River or up north. Luckily, however, WRD hasn't had to resort to bringing in the more expensive 'imported' water. Its water levels have been stable. In the suit, the three cities contend that WRD: 1) has been taxing the cities illegally; 2) the increasing RAs are caused mainly by WRD's manipulation of rates to subsidize the West Coast Basin; 3) the reserve fund of some $50 million maintained by WRD is way above the $10 million fund limit set by WRD's own charter; increasing chances of misuse of funds; and that 4) WRD spends its funds for purposes other than those originally and properly intended. The suit was filed in L.A. Superior Court on behalf of the three cities by the legal firm of McCormick, Kidman & Behrens, LLP, and a response is anticipated from WRD within the next two months. The trial date will be set on Dec. 3, after further deliberations by both sides.
********** Published: October 7, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 25