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A Specious Argument

Digger - October 1, 2013

Ray Bolanos of Borrego Springs, California published a full-page, paid advertisement in the Borrego Sun of September 12, 2013 entitled "Why have your water rates doubled since 2009" in which he argued that the entire cause of the Borrego Water District rate increases amounting to more than 100% since 2009 was the water district's purchase of the well that served the Rams Hill Golf Course (RHGC) and that simply by returning the well and granting the rights to drill more wells to the new owners of the RHGC the water rate increases could be returned to pre-2009 levels. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is true, as Bolanos claims, that BWD "water rates have more than doubled since 2009." It is true, as he also claims, that the water district bought the RHGC well in 2009. It is not true, however, that the two events are causally connected in the way that Bolanos implies. Water rates went up because of the cumulative effect of a whole series of incredibly stupid decisions - the RHGC well purchase excepted - made by BWD's General Manager and board between 2008 and 2010 inclusive that left the District broke, deeply in debt, and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. So it is not true that "rates would drop if BWD allowed the Rams Hill Golf Course to reopen" and sold the well back to the golf course."

In the first instance, BWD has no authority to prevent RHGC from reopening. The new owner, Bill Berkley, can reopen it at any time. He simply has to pay the going rate for water to irrigate it. Moreover, because the previous board and General Manager squandered the District's entire $6 million cash reserve in less than three years with nothing worthwhile to show for it except the RHGC well, the District will have no choice but to keep rates high for the indefinite future in order to regain financial solvency.

BWD has no special responsibility to Rams Hill ratepayers beyond those contained in its Mission Statement which extend to all ratepayers: "to preserve and conserve [water]... reverse the overdraft of the Borrego Valley...[and] provide quality water and sewer service." Returning the RHGC well and the right to drill more to the owners of RHGC would advantage a small minority of ratepayers, i.e., Rams Hill property owners such as Bolanos, in the short term, imperil the future of the entire community in the long term, and fly directly in the face of BWD's stated mission. It is a bad idea. The BWD board should reject it out-of-hand and waste no more time debating it.

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