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RSF Association, SFID settle water rate lawsuit

Santa Fe Irrigation District offices
(Karen Billing)

The Santa Fe Irrigation District and the Rancho Santa Fe Association have reached an agreement settling the litigation filed in December 2018 over the district’s 2016 water rates. In the lawsuit, the Association alleged that that the rate structure unfairly penalized Covenant members with higher water rates because their larger properties require more water for irrigation.

At its meeting on June 17 the SFID board unanimously approved the settlement resolving the litigation. Earlier in June, the agreement was approved by the Association and named plantiffs Howell Wynne and Greg Gruzdowich, a former SFID board member and current RSF Association board director.

According to a news release, under the settlement agreement, the Association, Gruzdowich and Wynne agree to dismiss the litigation regarding the water rates, and SFID has agreed to hire a rate consultant to prepare a new cost-of-service study to include, as part of the analysis, a budget-based tiered rate structure.

While not committing to a specific rate structure, the SFID board has agreed to consider, in good faith, the rate structures proposed by the rate consultant and others during its rate setting process.

“Communication and collaboration are key tenets of SFID’s vision and values,” said SFID Board President Michael Hogan in a news release. “We are very pleased that we were able to resolve this litigation with the Association and look forward to ongoing discussions on the value of water and equitable rates across all customer classes.

“As our local communities, region and state face long-term issues such as drought, climate change and increased regulatory pressure, collaboration with the entire community is key to maintaining our economy and quality of life. Water supply resiliency sustainability, and affordability are the foundations of our community, and we are dedicated to engaging with our customers.”

The settlement agreement also puts on hold any proceedings related to a claim filed by the Association, Gruzdowich and Wynne regarding SFID’s 2020 rates until SFID has considered and adopted a new rate schedule or January 31, 2023, whichever is later.

According to the release, SFID will commission the new cost-of-service study beginning in fall 2021. Public meetings and workshops will be held to educate the community on the cost of providing a safe and reliable water supply and future plans for the district. Any changes to the water rate structure will be presented to the SFID board and adopted prior to implementation

“Equitable water rates for Rancho Santa Fe and all customers has been the goal of our current litigation efforts. We are pleased to take a collaborative step forward with SFID in this process,” said outgoing RSF Association Board President Mike Gallagher. “As residents of a rural community, our members have appropriate and reasonable needs for water. We are hopeful SFID will devise an equitable water rate structure that is fair to all customers, whether they are residential, agricultural, or irrigation class customers at a price that represents the true cost of providing this critical resource.”

SFID board meetings are open to the public and are currently being held virtually. The district is currently evaluating public safety requirements before holding in-person meetings later this year.

For more information on meetings, visit sfidwater.org.


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