Officials at the Santa Clara Valley Water District say they may
have to cut programs and services if the public successfully and
formally objects to the district’s groundwater charges.
1. Water district claims a protest could result in no more drinking water or farm water
Officials at the Santa Clara Valley Water District say they may have to cut programs and services if the public successfully and formally objects to the district’s groundwater charges.
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled last year that groundwater charges, and the process by which they are set, are in violation of Proposition 218. That proposition ensures the water district sends out notices to 4,000 well owners, outlining the process to protest, and a successful majority protest by well owners would mean no groundwater charges will be imposed throughout the fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The water district’s clarification and publication of the Proposition 218 protest procedure this year is an effort to be more transparent with the taxpayers, though the directors disagree with the local court ruling and plan to appeal it.
But a successful protest could also mean no more drinking water or farm water from local aquifers, said Keith Whitman, water supply manager for the district.
2. District needs to fulfill its mission, as stated on the Web site
“We would interpret (a majority protest) as, they don’t want to pay the charge that supports all those capital projects,” Whitman said. “We’d have no choice but to respond and reduce those programs accordingly. It would be difficult even maintaining our dams and reservoirs.”
Hogwash. There are other places to cut than programs and services.
According to the district’s Web site, the “mission of the district is a healthy, safe and enhanced quality of living in Santa Clara County through watershed stewardship and comprehensive management of water resources in a practical, cost-effective and environmentally sensitive manner for current and future generations.”
Then stick to fulfilling the mission and begin making cuts elsewhere.
Cut the educational programs. Does the district really need puppet plays for preschoolers, tours of the recharge facility, training of teachers and free supplemental materials for all classes in Santa Clara County.
Does it really need a creekside property program to teach property owners how to properly care for stream banks and riparian vegetation, especially when the district and other public agencies own nearly half of all land adjacent to creeks? Send a memo to all property owners that outlines the best ways to care for the riparian corridors. One would think that ensuring all the district’s dams and reservoirs are safe would come before teaching children where their water comes from.
3. Cuts can be made to unnecessary educational programs
The majority protest resolution assures that notices announcing the procedure will be mailed to well owners at least 45 days before the annual public hearing to set groundwater charges. Each protest must be written and signed, and no protests via electronic communication such as e-mail will be accepted.
The board of directors is currently scheduled to set groundwater charges at a public hearing no later than April 27. The charges have to be set – or rejected if there is a majority protest – before June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
If you believe the water district can cut from places that don’t impact water delivery or safety, then file your protest.