Tag Archives: Marysville for reasonable water rates

Lou Binninger: private water providers like Cal Water charge up to 80 percent more than municipal providers

8 Oct

Marysville Can’t Afford Cal Water By Lou Binninger

Territorial Dispatch, Oct. 7 2015

http://territorialdispatch.biz/2015/oct/Oct7-2015WEB.pdf

 Marysville households are in shock over their water bills. Olivehurst, Linda and Yuba City residents can use much more water, add their sewer fee and still pay far less than Marysville people spend just for water. And, many of those water bills are larger than what people owe for PG and E. 

Why? Marysville is controlled by California Water Service (CWS), a for-profit corporation. CWS is known for high water rates, big profits and generous dividends. The other water systems are municipal, owned by the people and have low rates.

CWS bills are steep enough to cause customers to move. Cheaper options are 5 minutes away, just outside Marysville city limits.

Most Marysville lawns and landscaping were brown prior to drought restrictions. People could not afford the price of water in 2012. The city looks like no one gives a damn. Properties look abandoned.

However, other cities found a solution. Create a public water company and purchase the infrastructure (pipes, wells, tanks etc.). The citizens of Marysville already own the water. CWS is paid to deliver that water to them.

Food & Water Watch (FWW), a nonprofit advocate for safe and affordable drinking water, helps communities move to public control. In 2009, FWW studied nearly 5,000 water utilities and 1,900 sewer utilities and concluded that private entities charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services.

CWS rates are much higher, 3-4 times higher.

In the current CWS rate case submitted to the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) more than half of the requested 25% increase goes to improving CWS operations in San Jose. Less than one mile of the more than 54 miles of Marysville water line is listed to be replaced. In the last rate case CWS wanted 47% (2013) more and before that they were awarded a 55.5% (2011) spike in rates.

In November 2002, CalAm (Cal-American Water Co), the City of Felton’s (pop 4057-yr 2010) water provider, proposed a 74% rate increase over three years. Felton residents formed Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW), and with legal help from Santa Cruz County, fought the rate increase. CPUC reduced it to 44%.

However, fearing future escalating costs, FLOW began working on a plan to buy the water system and turn it over to nearby San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD), a public utility. By 2005, FLOW enlisted the help of FWW and worked on a ballot initiative to raise the funds to buy the system.

They were successful. The ballot initiative won with nearly 75 percent of the vote. SLVWD then proposed to buy the system for $7.6 million. CalAm/RWE refused to sell. SLVWD pursued eminent domain to force a buyout. Just before the case was to go to jury trial, Cal-Am agreed to terms.

Today, with Felton now served by a public utility, the average resident’s bill has dropped by at least 50%. FLOW has calculated that even with using a property tax increase to pay off Cal-Am, most residents are already saving as much as $400 per year.

Citizens of Ojai (pop 7581-yr 2013), east of Santa Barbara, have been working on buying-out Golden State Water (GSW) and joining adjacent Casitas Municipal Water District. Casitas delivers water at one-third the price. In 2008, GSW hiked its water rates by 34.9%. In January 2011 they bumped rates again 26.2%.

On August 13, 2013, Measure V was put on the ballot to approve joining Casitas, issue bonds to buy GSW and make capital improvements. It passed with 87.4% of the vote.

Ojai customers expect 10-15% rate decreases the first year after purchase and for rates to remain stable. The typical customer would experience an annual savings of $141.00. They project that savings will increase to $1500.00 per year by 2025.

Though the court has ruled for Ojai FLOW / Casitas Water District to purchase Golden State, the legal wrangling continues. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in July 2015.

Marysville residents have been slapped with similar or greater rate increases as either Felton or Ojai. No wonder Appeal Democrat writer Harold Kruger believes Marysville leaders are soft on the issue. Maybe it’s time the residents take charge.

Water rates on the rise – James Hunter, fighting the good fight in San Jose; energetic groups in Marysville, Lucerne keeping the issue on the surface

9 Apr

I got a nice e-mail from a man in the San Jose area, James Hunter, about his efforts to fight undue water rate increases. He has kept a journal of his adventures with CPUC and San Jose Water Company in his blog, here:

http://sjwc-rate-increase.blogspot.com/

Wow, look at the work it takes to deal with these people.  Mr. Hunter has the kind of perseverance and intelligence it takes to hold a candle to the water company. I do not have the patience or expertise to go through the bureaucratic runaround, it’s just maddening. Hunter does not get discouraged. His blog is a good read for anybody who wants to take on the flak catchers. 

And you might want to check in with the Marysville folks, they are a motivated group:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marysville-For-Reasonable-Water-Rates/176321489194208

And here’s a group from the Clear Lake town of Lucerne

https://www.facebook.com/LucerneFLOW

 

See what’s ahead for Chico in the next couple of years…Marysville city staff play dirty with November tax increase measure

7 Sep

 I don’t know if you’ve heard, the Marysville city council voted to put a one cent sales tax increase on their upcoming ballot. As you’d expect in a town that defeated a similar proposal in 2008, there’s opposition. But something Democracy minded citizens might not expect was how the opposition was treated by the city clerk.

According to Lou Binninger in the Territorial Dispatch  

( read the full story here – http://territorialdispatch.biz/2014/sept/Sept3-2014WEB.pdf   )

the Marysville City Clerk gave the anti-tax group the wrong deadline and therefore prevented them from submitting their ballot arguments. When the group showed the clerk a note in her own handwriting with the wrong deadline, she still refused to accept their arguments. The city attorney backed her up, saying all the city has to do is post an obscure notice in whatever newspaper they think can bury it the farthest in the want ads. 

I’m not surprised, Chico City Clerk Debbie Presson has given me misinformation, and then handed me nothing but a dumb giggle and “I’m so sorry!”  But  to those of you who have not yet been hipped to the true meaning of “public servant,” it would still come as a shock that these people work to feather their own nests instead of safeguarding the public interest. 

I expect this or a very similar scenario to play itself out right here in Chico in 2016. We’ve already heard the cops asking for some sort of public safety tax, probably an increase in sales tax. As busy as I will be over the next year or so, I will  keep Chico Taxpayers up and running, let’s try to get ready for another go-around like Measure J, it might be fun. 

Good news for Marysville – CPUC judge recommends lower rate hike for them, but still no word for Chico

26 Jul

It really makes me frustrated that the local media isn’t covering the Cal Water rate increase. Here’s a story from the Marysville Appeal Democrat, regarding the Marysville rate case, which is separate from the Chico rate case. I have no news on the Chico rate case. When I asked David Little if he could find out more information on this rate increase he responded, “I don’t know if we’re doing anything on Cal Water?” [sic]  

http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/puc-to-consider-cal-water-rate-hike/article_4406288a-12f1-11e4-9d88-001a4bcf6878.html

PUC to consider Cal Water rate hike

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:08 am

By Eric Vodden/evodden@appealdemocrat.com

 
An administrative law judge issued a proposed decision this week that keeps intact a California Water Service Co. three-year rate increase in Marysville.Judge Robert Mason’s decision reflects a settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates calling for a 10.16 percent rate hike this year.

 The 93-plus page decision also follows settlement agreement recommendations of inflationary rate increases in Marysville of from 1 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The decision, which addresses proposed rate hikes in water systems operated by Cal Water throughout the state, must still be considered by the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission will take up the proposed increase on Aug. 14.

Cal Water spokesman Justin Skarb said if the PUC adopts the agreement, new water utility rates will become effective a few days later. The company has said it needs the increase to keep up with increased costs and state-mandated capital improvements.

Under the proposed decision, a typical residential customer in Marysville using about 9,724 gallons of water per month will have charges totaling about $43.65, up from $39.36.

The increase, stemming from a company’s 2012 application, was initially expected to be completed in time to be imposed last Jan. 1. Since it wasn’t, customers will see a surcharge on their bills to reflect the “under-collection of revenue” since Jan. 1, Skarb said.

“To lessen the impact on customers, the surcharge will be spread out over a period of 12 months, and is likely to be less than 25 cents per unit of water used by customers,” Skarb said in a statement. “Those figures could change, however, if the commission does not adopt the proposed decision, or otherwise modifies it.”

The settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates last November effectively ended a public campaign in Marysville by residents opposed to the hike. Yuba County supervisors, the Marysville Joint Unified School District and the Marysville City Council also opposed the increase.

The 10.16 percent increase for 2014 is below the 14.1 percent increase recommended by the Office of Ratepayer Advocates. It was believed the increase would fall somewhere between the 34.8 percent Cal Water was asking and what Ratepayer Advocates was recommending.

The increase also includes funds needed for the $2 million relocation of water mains along portions of Highways 20 and 70 to accommodate Caltrans’ ongoing roadway project.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.

I think Marysville got a good decision because they made a very loud protest, as did Oroville. They were actually named on the documents as a “party,” and they got regular updates on the case from the CPUC. I don’t even know how to register myself as a “party.” When I tried to talk to the folks in Sacramento, they told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously and be heard at all by the commissioners (or even their receptionists),  I’d have to drive to San Francisco to attend meetings, pay out of my own pocket to stay overnight because the meetings went on over days, sometimes over the weekend. Otherwise I could just sit home and wait for the rate increase notice, retroactive to January 2014, in my bill.  I had no posse behind me, no group willing to make phone calls, spend hours searching and networking for information, attend meetings or help to write or sign letters. 

Chico has been pretty limp-wristed here. There was a big hoo-rah in the beginning, back in March 2013, when a packed room of pissed off jerks greeted the CPUC representative who monitored the hearing. Oh yeah, you guys gave little Darwin a real pants-ful. And then you folded up and went home and hung your testicles on the wall next to your Mickey Mouse badge and cap gun.

Just lately I’ve seen a letter about WRAM – well, how do you do? Let’s get together and write a formal, group letter to the CPUC before they make their final decision. I’m willing to book the library room to work on something, let me know if you’re interested. 

If we don’t make some kind of noise, we might actually get the 38 percent increase Cal Water proposed to begin with. Cal Water rep Justin Skarb acts as though Cal Water is being shorted here, that we’re just getting oodles of free water. We have to tell the CPUC about the notice we got – read here – about $1.5 million just for salaries, pensions, and benefits, and another $395,000 for “quality employees“, whatever the hell that means:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

 

Remember, this is a proposal, the CPUC still needs to make a decision. 

From Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates: We are NOT going away. We want change.

10 Feb

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marysville-For-Reasonable-Water-Rates/176321489194208
“Whiskey is for drinking; Water is for fighting over” ~
This quote has been attributed to 
Mark Twain 

We have a lot of new information to share. Please share this post on your facebook site and with friends and family.

Several weeks ago a group of us from Marysville met with other cities to form a coalition. We have said many times that there is power and strength in numbers. All of us have been fighting alone. So forming an alliance, only makes sense. The group represents cities served by one of the BIG 3 private for-profit water companies in California: Golden State; Cal American; and California Water Service. Everyone has the same stories and issues: escalating water rates!! The coalition advocates for fair and reasonable water rates. 

It is pretty obvious that we will never change the way that the BIG 3 do business. But we can lobby for change at CPUC. We can and will put pressure on local and state elected officials. CPUC appears to be rife with conflict of interest between its role as a State agency that oversees the private utility companies and its role as a rate setter for private utilities. The current system is broken!! It is working for the private water companies, but NOT for the ratepayers. There is no protection for the ratepayers of the private water companies. 

The coalition of cities is growing. A website that will be representative of all cities that join the coalition will soon be up and running. We will keep you posted. 

Yesterday several members of the coalition attended an Assembly Committee meeting on Utilities and Commerce in Sacramento. The topic of the meeting was “Keeping Water Rates Affordable”. Denise Rushing (Supervisor in Lucerne) gave a presentation about their issues with rates (Cal Water). Kudos to Supervisor Rushing for standing up and speaking out for those who elected her. Bill Simmons (Marysville) and Craig Bach (Lucerne) also spoke. They talked about escalating water rates; affordability; WRAM surcharges etc. Apparently Arizona does not have the issue that we have. The PUC in Arizona elects their commissioners. They are not appointed. They are accountable to the people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Thank you to Bill Simmons and Craig Bach for speaking out. We appreciate you!!!

Chris Pedigo is scheduled to be interviewed by Channel 13-Sacramento this evening. He will address all of the issues above. Thank you Councilman Pedigo!! 

Please be sure to share this update. It is encouraging to see how many cities are happy to jump on board with the coalition. We will continue to meet; to network; to lobby and share resources. 
We will be back soon with another update. There is much more going on. 

Spring and summer is just around the corner. More brown lawns. More brown parks. Higher WRAM charges. Higher water charges!! 

We are NOT going away. We want change.

NOTE:  Check out the new website 

http://californiawaterrights.org/

Right now we actually have a chance to get our legislators to listen to us about water rate increase, WRAM – please write an e-mail to Assemblyman Rendon

30 Jan

I have joined efforts with Marysville and Oroville for Reasonable Water Rates, along with people from other nearby towns that are being hit with water rate increases, to get the word out to other folks up and down the state – we don’t have to take this TAKING laying down. Cal Water and other private providers will tell you they need the money to serve us!  Take one of these right now!

My mom gave me these.

My mom gave me these. She had a built-in Bullshit Detector, but figured I might need a supplement.

Here, Cal Water is requesting a 38 percent rate increase to cover their “operating costs”. My notice said:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

Another problem with our water billing is WRAM – the Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism. This allows Cal Water and other private water companies to manipulate our rates monthly without hearings or CPUC approval.  Municipal water companies do not have WRAM. Look at your bills, it’s there.

So, I have been trying to write to papers around the state, telling people what we’re doing – write to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon at Assemblymember.Rendon@asm.ca.gov  

This is not a lost effort.  Mr. Rendon’s staff has responded to other writers that there will be a hearing regarding water rates and how they affect the ratepayers at the state capital on February 3, 3pm, Room 437. I know that’s short notice, but you can still e-mail Rendon and tell you him you’re concerned about how water rates will affect your life.  At least you know it’s something they’re discussing, your comments will have a better chance of having some effect. Be short and to the point, hopefully he will have a lot of e-mails on this subject.

I always feel weird writing to papers in other towns, but what the heck – it’s one of the only ways to network with the more general public. Sure you could look for other groups – that’s called, “preaching to the choir,” Hon. I prefer to launch myself out there, God(dess) save me, and see what I can find. Sometimes I find a closed door, and a long dark walk home. Other times I find somebody – like the other day at the garbage meeting – who says, “Wow, I have been trying to find out how to get in touch with you!”  Or, “Hey, that pisses me off too!” Zowie! That really turns my wheels.

I was reading through an online paper in the little town of Downey California, the Downey Patriot. I came across this letter, posted January 23.

Dear Editor:
On early morning walks it’s interesting to observe how we irrigate our property.
Sometimes sprinkler heads are broken and water gushes up like Old Faithful and then cascades into the gutter, or sprinkler heads are directing water onto sidewalks and streets. We, including this writer, waste our precious supply of fresh water big time. We think it’s an infinite supply, that it never will be depleted, that it will always be there for us. Not true. We constantly strive for a beautiful lawn in our semiarid, desert-like environment.
Some scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography predict a 50 percent probability that Lake Mead will be completely dry by 2021 because of climate change, unsustainable overuse of the Colorado River and population increase. Lake Mead, a huge reservoir of Colorado River water supplying Arizona, Nevada, California and Northern Mexico is dropping to a level not seen since it was first being filled in the 1930s.
We have been in an 11-year ongoing drought. Many of our large water reservoirs are down 50 percent or more. Look at hills that haven’t burned and notice how brown they are. That is how Southern California would look in its natural state without large amounts of imported water.
We continue sticking our heads in the sand by not immediately taking steps to radically save our diminishing water supply. This writer and his family have spent many happy days on Lake Powell, Mead, Mohave and Lake Havasu boating, swimming, fishing, skiing and camping. It’s amazing to watch the mighty Colorado flow by and know how vital it is for those of us who live in the Western U.S.
It is amazing to see all the water behind these giant dams and now some experts believe that in the future, lack of water may make it necessary to close either Boulder Dam or Glen Canyon Dam.
Byron Dillon
Downey

Zowie! I had to answer Mr. Dillon.

 I read Bryon Dillon’s letter (Jan 23) and, like him, I am concerned about our water supply. Conservation seems obvious, but private water companies are undermining our conservation efforts with a process in our water bills by which we are essentially penalized for saving water. It’s called WRAM – “Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism” – and you will find it on your private company water bill.
 

I live in the Northern California town of Chico. I have a group of friends, Chico Taxpayers Association, who have been networking with a growing number of people in Butte, Sutter, Lake and Glenn Counties who are concerned about the way private water companies are billing consumers.   

 

WRAM comes into your bill when your water usage falls below what your private provider determines is necessary to cover their expenses for that month. Over the past year this has added anywhere from $8 to $20 to my monthly bill, while I’ve been replacing plumbing and killing sections of landscaping.

 

Here in Chico, Cal Water’s “expenses” included over $1.7 million to provide fully-paid pensions and health benefits, cover “general office operation expenses” and new salaries, but only $163,000 for infrastructural maintenance. WRAM allows them to manipulate rates at will, monthly, without any public hearing or CPUC process.

 

My friends and I are asking legislators to suspend WRAM for full investigation. You can contact me at https://chicotaxpayers.com/  You can also contact Assemblyman Anthony Rendon,  Assemblymember.Rendon@asm.ca.gov, who sits on the committee that oversees water issues, and ask him to call for the suspension of WRAM.  

I’m hoping the Patriot will run my letter, and that at least some readers will either contact Rendon or come on over to our website and get more information. I work incrementally. Every little contact breeds other little contacts, until an idea gets out there to the general public. I think that’s the way to make a difference, I hope you will join me and give a few minutes of your time to this effort.

News from the folks at Marysville For Reasonable Water Rates

1 Dec

I have been in touch with  Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates, and a member has  sent me several downloads regarding Cal Water’s rate hikes. She also added me to her notification list for upcoming meetings. She’s in contact with people from other nearby towns like Dixon, as well as other towns around California who want to fight this upcoming Cal Water rate hike. She is trying to get a meeting together, I’m presuming in Marysville, for early in 2014. 

 
They are trying to get Adam Scow, of Food and Water Watch, to speak at the meeting.  I don’t know much about FWW, but this man is connected to various water boards, and he must know something worth sharing.
 
I’ve been told that Butte County Supervisors will discuss taking some sort of action on this issue, possibly sending a letter to the CPUC, on December 10. I will try to get more information about time specific and hope those of you who are able to give up a day’s pay to attend will come. You could also write to the supervisors, 
There’s a good conversation going on the Marysville Facebook page