RRWPC submitted extensive comments a week ago and look forward to meeting with Jay and Grant about this document with other Water Coalition members.
Since those comments were submitted, I realized there is a critical issue that was not included in my original comments and which I would like to submit now. I hope you will be able to consider this, since I believe it is of supreme importance.
This is in regard to the Agency’s ability to administer the Water Shortage Contingency Plan in a manner that assures equitable water use during extreme shortages in the Russian River:
Page C-4 in the Appendix of the Agency’s Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) states in the middle of the page:
“…..the Water Agency has no ability to directly restrict the use of water by end users, or to impose financial penalties on end users for excessive use. However, under the Restructured Agreement, the Water Agency has a number of methods available to it to ensure that its contractors do not use more than the amount of water allocated by the Water Agency during a time of shortage.” and
“…..a contractor taking more than its allocated amount of water during a shortage is subject to a liquidated damages surcharge equal to 50% of the then-current operations and maintenance charge for each acre-foot of water taken by the contractor in excess of its allocation. Section 3.5(e) also reserves to the Water Agency all other rights it may have to limit contractors and other customers to their allocated amounts, including physically limiting the quantity of water taken to the amounts allocated, and pursuing all other available legal and equitable remedies applicable to such violations.”
In 2009 conditions were such that the Water Shortage Contingency Plan was implemented on May 12, 2009. Contractors were limited to a total of 53 million gallons a day (mgd) that summer and was under orders from the State Board to optimize conservation.
Yet at the Nov. 1, 2010 meeting of the water contractors, it was publically revealed that in the summer of 2009, North Marin had exceeded their allocation in June, July, and August, 2009 by a considerable amount. In June they had delivered water to NMWD from Stafford Lake. It was unclear to us why the Agency authorized this delivery after the fact, since we thought the contract with MMWD only covered off-peak deliveries. (See attached letter from C. DeGabriele explaining the situation.) In fact, according to the attached letter, SCWA attempted file suit against North Marin over the situation, but both agreed to settle, rather than get into an expensive legal action. SCWA agreed to deduct the June penalty that had been imposed on NMWD. We do not know why this occurred and why NMWD was allowed to even deliver water to MMWD at a time of extreme shortages. Please explain.
It turns out that, at the same time, NMWD made a side agreement with Rohnert Park ,to use their excess capacity to cover their own needs without getting buy-in from other contractors, most of whom knew nothing about the arrangement. In a letter of Oct. 18, 2010 to the Water Advisory Committee from Chris DeGabriele,, contractors were urged to give approval on a revision of Transmission System Capacity During Temporary Impairment Period from June 15 to October 2, 2009, claiming that the total allocation for all contractors was legally met. (The letter was for Item #5 on the agenda and was dated October 18, 2009. It is attached to this email.)
At this November, 2010, meeting of the contractors, Chris DeGabriele of North Marin presented the attached letter to the contractors, along with attached resolution, and after considerable discussion, Agency and contractors agreed to allocation as presented in the Resolution, and the Agency relieved North Marin and the two other violators of the need to pay any fines. (I believe their rationale was, as a group, they had not exceeded the 53 mgd.)
In the meantime, the State has instituted new conservation requirements under SBX7-7. Chris DeGabriele took the lead in organizing the contractors to sign an agreement to form a regional group under this new law. (letter of 2-25-11 attached), while admitting that North Marin cannot meet the 2020 targets. The group would no longer need to meet per person demands as individual contractors and could cover for each other. This means that those who have lobbied for greater allocations have the edge over those whose demands are greater. The group agreed that any contractor can resign at any time. Santa Rosa was rather uncomfortable about signing on, but did so in consideration of their ability to withdraw at any time.
So where does that leave SCWA in terms of administering the Water Shortage Contingency Plan? Does this mean that contractors agree that as long as they stay under 53 million gallons a day as a group, they will not be penalized? If Santa Rosa doesn’t go over, but all other contractors do, does that mean they will have to pay a penalty with all other members of the group? Or does no one have to pay? How will penalties be allocated? Will the 53 million be constant, or will it grow as time goes on, in spite of river conditions? In fact, what and who determines what that allocation will be during each shortage? What are the guidelines? How will North Marin be dealt with if they consistently cause other contractors to be fined because they cannot limit water use by their citizenry?
This agreement institutionalizes the contractor’s ability to do an end-run around the requirements noted above. Some may be free to expand their populations greatly because of this capacity sharing. It’s like musical chairs: who will be stuck with the short end of the stick in terms of allocation? WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THE RIVER IN TERMS OF THIS UWMP PLANNING DOCUMENT? Chris DeGabriele, the man who mis-used the 2009 Contingency Plan is now head of administering this regional agreement. He is also the man who said up front that North Marin cannot meet the SBX7-7 2020 targets. We wonder where all this is going and how the UWMP can assure that stringent conservation limits will be strictly enforced during water shortage periods?
We look forward to your response.
Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
P.O. Box 501
Guerneville, CA 95446