Hearing approaches for water district rate plan

A showdown is looming between the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which provides water to residents of Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch and Solana Beach, and the Rancho Santa Fe Association, one of the water agency's largest customers.

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20, when the water board could vote to implement a proposed rate plan that would increase water bills by an average of 3 percent annually over the next three years.

The RSF Association contends the rate plan is unfair to its members and has encouraged them to file written protests regarding the proposal. As of Monday, Dec. 3, the district had received 359 written protests, with 310 of those protests validated, said Kim Johnson, executive assistant to General Manager Michael Bardin.

In order to block the proposed rate plan from taking effect, a majority of water district customers must file written protests. The district serves about 6,500 households, so about 3,250 written protests would be needed.

Johnson said only one protest per parcel will be counted, so if a household submits more than one protest, the additional protests will be disqualified.

Also, only protests with original signatures will be counted, so customers must either bring their protests to the district office at 5920 Linea Del Cielo, Rancho Santa Fe, or mail them to P.O. Box 409, Rancho Santa Fe, CA, 92067. Protests sent by email or fax will not be accepted. Protests must be received by the time of the Dec. 20 hearing.

The RSF Association contends the rate plan is unfair because it includes two tiers of water rates, with higher rates charged to those who use the most water. Residents of the eastern portion of the district, including Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch, have larger lots and therefore use more water. Residents of the western portion of the district, mostly in Solana Beach, have smaller lots and use less water.

The proposed rate plan actually reduces the number of tiers from the current four to two, but the Association wants the district to charge a single rate for all water consumed. The Association has hired a water rate consultant and attorneys to make its case with the water district. At a water board meeting in September, an Association board member threatened legal action if the water board passes a rate plan deemed unfair by the Association.

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