Saved by the lawyers and the EPA

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 2-13-13

Being saved by lawyers and the EPA must seem like a Deadman’s Hand of Aces and Eights, but that was the report the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors heard Feb. 11.

First the lawyers. For a mere $50,000 ante EID joined a consortium that successfully sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to prevent it from jacking up its fees by millions for the use of federal lands by those holding FERC hydroelectric generating licenses. In EID’s case the license is Project 184, which includes four alpine reservoirs, a diversion dam, 22 miles of canals, flumes and tunnels and a 22 megawatt powerhouse.

EID had been paying FERC $172,000 annually for the use of federal lands, but FERC was going to charge more than $2.9 million starting in 2011, by valuing the federal lands as irrigated farm land, whereas most FERC licenses in California are in forested mountains.

FERC’s original bill would have added up to $11 million over six years. Instead the lawsuit blocked this and then the coalition worked with FERC during its rule making. The bottom line is EID got a 25 percent discount, which lowered its fee $43,000 to $129,00 this year. It will then rise to $172,000 in 2014 and stay there through 2015. In 2016 inflation and revised land values will be factored in to determine the increase.

EID had budgeted as much as $500,000 per year for this expense and over the course of a two-year budget it will save $700,000, according to District Counsel Tom Cumpston.

The other saving came from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is now allowing the district to use electronic delivery of its required Consumer Confidence Report that details the prior year’s water sampling results. Doing a separate mailing of this page-long list of ingredients of the district’s treated water has cost the district $12,600 a year.

Now the district can post that information on its Website and notify customers with their bill that they can look for it on the district’s Website or request it be emailed to them.

“Customers don’t consider it (the mailing) a good use of the district’s money,” Cumpston said.

“My feedback is it’s too technical,” said Board President George Osborne.

The face-down card, though, is the California Department of Public Health, which administers the EPA’s guidance. Cumpston wrote that “the Association of California Water Agencies has been coordinating with DPH and reports that DPH expects to have its followup actions complete in time for the delivery of the 2012 CCRs (Consumer Confidence Reports) this coming July.”


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