Monday, April 23 , 2018, 1:23 am | Fair 55º


Local News

Carpinteria Valley Water District Lowers Rates

The district says steering clear of COMB's second-barrel project and restructuring its debt saved customers money

The furor present at last year’s rate hearing was absent Wednesday as the Carpinteria Valley Water District’s board of directors convened to discuss changes in this year’s rates. This time, however, rates are going down instead of up.

While his board may not have been able to lower rates by much, General Manager Charles Hamilton said that 75 percent of the district’s customers received reduced bills this year.

“The goal was to have a no- or low-increase rate change [this year]. It was a difficult task, and we got into it with our friends at COMB about funding certain things and not funding certain things,” said Hamilton, referring to his district’s ongoing dispute beginning last year with the regional Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board over the funding breakdown for its second-barrel project.

COMB projects typically have been split along lines established when the Cachuma Project was built in the 1950s, leaving Carpinteria on the hook for about 12 percent of the cost.

While COMB General Manager Kate Rees had touted the $9 million second-barrel project — a redundant 8,200-foot section of pipeline to be built in the foothills above Goleta that engineering consultant AECOM said would restore flow capacity to the South Coast’s aging water delivery system — as essential to COMB’s capability to deliver water during high-demand summer months, Hamilton and his board had balked at the claim, refusing to participate in a $16 million bond to fund that and other regional water infrastructure projects.

“If [the second-barrel project] had been warranted, that would have been a different story,” Hamilton said, explaining that the project’s location along the upper reach of the South Coast Conduit — the region’s main water artery — made it more of a benefit to the Goleta Water District and the City of Santa Barbara than to his district, which is located at the end of the line.

Managers from those agencies had disagreed with Hamilton’s position, however, pushing the project as an upgrade essential for continued service reliability. Water from Lake Cachuma makes up about 80 percent of the supply for the South Coast’s four water service agencies — the City of Santa Barbara, as well as the Goleta, Montecito and Carpinteria Valley water districts all receive the bulk of their water from Cachuma, through the Santa Ynez Mountains via the 6½-mile-long Tecolote Tunnel — so the remaining South Coast service providers ponied up to pay for the second barrel.

Carpinteria’s board, however, had raised its rates last May, and cited the ire of customers complaining of already high rates as a motivating factor in its decision not to participate in funding the second barrel.

“One of our agricultural customers complained that nearly half of his bill went toward the monthly service charge, so we focused on lowering that,” Hamilton said, pointing out that by steering clear of the second-barrel project and restructuring its debt, the district was able to realize significant savings.

In all, he said 75 percent of the district’s customers received reductions, with the average single-family home user saving about $2.17 per bill.

“Without the debt restructuring,” Hamilton said, “we would have had to have increases more along the lines of 3, 4 or 5 percent in the budget.”

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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