City of San Diego pulls 11th-hour stunt in hopes of preventing Fallbrook and Rainbow from changing water suppliers
Last updated 6/28/2023 at 4:47pm
“Laws are like sausages,” said Otto Von Bismark, the former Chancellor of Germany. “It’s better not to see them being made.”
This famous quote – made more than 100 years ago – certainly applies to what we’re seeing today from the City of San Diego as Fallbrook and Rainbow seek to change water suppliers.
As you are probably aware, we have filed detachment applications, as they are called, with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to part ways with the San Diego County Water Authority, which has raised water costs on our two districts by an average of 8% a year over the past decade. Instead, we would purchase water from the Eastern Municipal Water District, a move that would result in an estimated annual ratepayer savings of $7.6 million.
In recent weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity, and we want to bring you up to date on the latest developments and shenanigans being played by the other side.
LAFCO commissioners met June 5 to consider our detachment applications, after years of analysis by LAFCO staff and an outside consultant. Dozens of Fallbrook and Rainbow residents made the trip to the County Administration Center downtown to let their voices be heard.
After more than six hours of presentations, public testimony and discussion, LAFCO commissioners – divided over how to proceed – voted to table the matter until Aug. 7 to give our two districts and the County Water Authority time to come up with an “exit fee” that everyone could agree upon and that the commissioners could support.
LAFCO staff is recommending that Fallbrook and Rainbow be allowed to detach if we pay a $24 million exit fee over five years. The County Water Authority, as well as the City of San Diego, are opposed to the LAFCO staff’s recommendation. Had LAFCO commissioners approved the staff’s recommendation, then the voters of Fallbrook and Rainbow would have had the final say in an election likely held next year in accordance with long-standing state law.
Over the past month, however, the City of San Diego and the County Water Authority quietly enlisted Assemblymember Tasha Boerner-Horvath to amend a climate change bill (although our detachments have nothing to do with climate change) that would require a successful countywide vote – not just a successful vote in Fallbrook and Rainbow – before our districts could detach from the County Water Authority.
With Assemblymember Boerner-Horvath and the state Legislature attempting to undermine LAFCO’s authority and its long-standing detachment process, LAFCO held a special meeting June 14 so they could discuss opposing her bill, as recommended by their staff. They also wanted to discuss moving up the detachment decision from Aug. 7 to July 10 so they could vote on the matter – one way or another – before the bill could go into effect if passed.
At the meeting, LAFCO commissioners voted six-two to oppose the bill and we commend them for doing so. This matter should be decided by the voters in Fallbrook and Rainbow per state law, which stipulates that only voters in a departing district should decide. No water district would ever willingly become a member of the County Water Authority knowing it would be impossible to leave. This 11th-hour trickery by the City of San Diego – which sponsored the bill and the Water Authority, which actively supports it – simply shows the extent to which they will go to prevent us from deciding for ourselves who we want to purchase water from.
LAFCO will now consider our applications Monday, July 10, and will likely vote on them that day. The public is once again invited to attend and speak before the commissioners to express their thoughts. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 335.
We encourage you to attend and voice your opinion.
Charley Wolk, board chairman, Fallbrook Public Utility District.
Hayden Hamilton, board chairman, Rainbow Municipal Water District.