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Detachment committee introduces consultant

San Diego's Local Agency Formation Commission has an Advisory Committee on the Fallbrook/Rainbow Detachment which met Dec. 7, and the focus of that meeting was to introduce consultant Michael Hanemann and provide feedback on his proposed approach.

"I want to be helpful, I want to move this forward, but in a way you're all satisfied with," Hanemann said.

The 10-member advisory committee does not make recommendations but seeks to identify and potentially resolve issues regarding the proposed reorganization in which the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District would detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and annex to the Eastern Municipal Water District.

The committee consists of FPUD general manager Jack Bebee, Rainbow general manager Tom Kennedy, SDCWA general manager Sandra Kerl, CWA 2020 vice chair and 2021 chair Gary Croucher, CWA Imported Water Committee vice chair David Cherashore, Eastern Municipal Water District deputy general manager Nick Kanetis, LAFCO Special Districts Advisory Council chair and Olivenhain Municipal Water District general manager Kimberly Thorner, City of Lemon Grove general manager and LAFCO Cities Advisory Committee member Lydia Romero, San Diego Association of Governments regional models analyst Rachel Cortes, and County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation director Brian Albright.

The Aug. 3 advisory committee meeting included discussion on the use of consultants to address issues on which parties differ. A list of consultants for each task was provided to FPUD, Rainbow, the CWA, and Eastern with each of those agencies having the right to veto a specific consultant.

The CWA's primary concerns are member agency reliability, the economic impacts to the CWA and the remaining 22 member agencies, impacts to the Bay-Delta, and the impact on the CWA's weighted vote at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California meetings. Because LAFCO's conditioning authority allows for an "exit fee," a consultant will determine whether that would be warranted.

Keene Simonds took over as the San Diego County LAFCO executive officer in September 2017 after Mike Ott retired. Simonds had previously been the executive officer of Marin County LAFCO for four years and prior to that he was the Napa County LAFCO executive officer for seven years. Simonds also spent four years as an analyst for Napa County LAFCO before becoming the executive officer. His expertise with Northern California consultants will allow for both independent parties and consultants whose qualifications are already known to Simonds.

Hanemann was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1976 to 2011 in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and retained professor emeritus status, including working with graduate students, after taking a position as a professor of economics at Arizona State University.

He worked with advisory committee stakeholders for a San Joaquin River discharge regulation and for the Imperial Irrigation District shortage allocation after the Quantification Settlement Agreement was passed.

"He's dealt with issues that are far more complex," Bebee said. "He's been doing a lot of studies. I think he can figure a lot out."

The first topic Hanemann will address is water supply reliability. He will then focus on water rate impacts, and his final topic will be potential departure payments.

For each task Hanemann will use information provided by LAFCO. Additional information may be submitted but should be submitted through LAFCO rather than to Hanemann directly. Hanemann may add items to the record although he will submit them to LAFCO staff first.

Eventually Hanemann will request a "quiet period" of approximately six weeks in which no additional items would be added to the record while he reviews the material he already has. He will then report back to LAFCO, and the quiet period will terminate.

"I think the approach makes sense," Bebee said.

"I think it's good if we can keep everything as transparent as possible, and if we can do most of it at the meeting that would be our goal," said LAFCO legal counsel Holly Whatley. "We do think it is important that we have a process where the interested parties and the public can share information."

Whatley noted that the "quiet period" along with having material submitted through LAFCO addresses concerns about unlimited submissions.

"I'm very comfortable with the approach," Kanetis said.

"The approach sounds reasonable to me," Albright said.

The transparency was also supported by the committee members. "I like the idea of preserving the record," Thorner said.

FPUD and the CWA were both supportive of using updated information to determine water supply reliability. Hanemann noted that the CWA's most recent urban water management plan, which was approved in 2015, was prepared during a drought. "I'd like some more recent experience," he said.

The CWA is in the process of updating its urban water management plan. "We can have the draft to you in early February," Kerl said.

FPUD and Camp Pendleton are partnering on the Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project which will increase available water supplies for FPUD and Camp Pendleton. Bebee asked that the Conjunctive Use Project, which is expected to be complete in early 2022, be incorporated in updated urban water management plan. "I think it's important to bring that in," he said. "All this does is sort of improve the situation."

Hanemann is receptive to input on future supply sources. "I'm looking for a way to try to be flexible," he said.

"I will be looking forward to his analysis," Cortes said.

Romero supports the process. "My concern is timeline, making sure we stay committed to the timeline," she said.

The timeline was a concern for Kennedy. "We're looking at 12, 14 weeks per topic which could run over 40 weeks," he said.

Hanemann responded that the first topic would take the longest. "This first bit is really learning," he said. "I certainly don't anticipate the other topics will take this long."

He added that the actual time to provide a recommendation to LAFCO could vary. "It's going to be driven by what are the questions and what are the assumptions," Hanemann said.

"There would be some relevant experience as we get past the first topic," Simonds said.

"It just points out how complex these issues are," Kerl said. "I believe it's going to take the time it needs to take to thoughtfully go through that process."

Kennedy urged the studies to focus on the requirements of the statutes. "I don't want to spend a lot of time going down different rabbit holes," he said.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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