On January 27, 2014 the Borrego Water District's Board approved a Settlement Agreement with and favourable to owners of the Rams Hill Golf Course regarding water use by the latter. On January 31, 2014 the Borrego Water District's Board President issued a Statement that briefly summarized and commented on the Agreement. The best that can be said of the badly flawed agreement is that it could have been worse. What follows is the text of a letter to the Borrego Sun published on March 13, 2014 in response to one from Rams Hill resident Don Blaikie published shortly after the Settlement Agreement was approved and predictably took quite a different view. More background.
Digger - March 15, 2014
Don Blaikie's letter to the Borrego Sun(02.13.2014) lauding the agreement between Rams Hill (RH) and BWD (The Agreement) makes a number of unfounded and wrong-headed claims. Among others:
RH will be a "magnet" attracting "an influx of new people and businesses" to Borrego Springs. This is a mantra repeated ad nauseam over the past 30+ years by those seeking special dispensations for the development, but never proven. Absent supporting evidence such assertions are mere speculation.
Because of the demise of the Rams Hill Golf Course (RHGC) "[a]ll Borrego property values plummeted." While RH property values may have been, to some degree, adversely affected, there is no evidence suggesting that the decline in Borrego property values overall was caused or even aggravated by anything more than a simultaneous nationwide slump in housing prices.
BWD water rates doubled because of the loss of revenue from water sales to RHGC. Water rates increased as a result of a series of extraordinarily irresponsible financial decisions taken by BWD"s previous General Manager and board that very nearly bankrupt the District. They will not magically drop if RHGC reopens.
Finally, Blaikie takes umbrage at Director Ray Delahay's vote against The Agreement and calls for his removal from the BWD board. There are, however, a number of things not to like about The Agreement (see below), and all Borregans should be thankful for a board member who thinks independently and has the courage of his convictions. Many of the ills now afflicting the BWD are directly attributable to the get-along by going-along attitude and resulting lemming-like behaviour of previous boards that drove the District over a fiscal cliff.
Although The Agreement calls for RH owners to purchase and fallow 300 acres of farm land in the valley to mitigate "projected golf course water use" of 800 acre feet per year (AFY) and the owners aver they are "planning to" reduce its annual usage to as close to 600 AFY as practicable," promises that RHGC would be water efficient, use reclaimed water, etc., have been made and broken so many times that they can no longer be blithely accepted at face value - especially when The Agreement is hedged about with ambiguous and equivocal qualifiers like "projected," "planning to," "as close to," "as practicable," etc.
Saul Miller's letter in the same issue as Blaikie's makes an excellent point: A successful solution to Borrego's water problem requires that all pumpers agree to have their water use monitored and controlled. It is not at all certain, however, that even RH is committed to such requirements. The owners knew going in that they would have to buy water from BWD and that their business plan could not accommodate the cost of such an arrangement, so they immediately set about trying to cut a deal with BWD to reduce their water costs. When BWD rebuffed their overtures, they repeatedly threatened the District with lengthy and expensive litigation that would be detrimental to the ratepayers" knowing full-well that BWD could not afford to defend a protracted law suit. There is little reason to suppose, therefore, that if terms of The Agreement again threaten their business plan they will not once more resort to threats and intimidation to work their will.
In her statement regarding the Settlement Agreement Beth Hart, President of the BWD board, said: "There were many issues of dispute between the parties[to The Agreement]... It is our profound hope that we have resolved those issues and can move forward towards the restoration of the District's credit worthiness." We should all share that probably vain hope while we wait for the fat lady to sing.
search engine by