NEWS WORTH NOTING: San Diego County Water Authority board chair outlines compromise terms to potentially end MWD litigation; California approves Ocean Acidification Action Plan

San Diego County Water Authority board chair outlines compromise terms to potentially end MWD litigation

Letter from Jim Madaffer sets the stage for equitable resolution of long-running rate cases

From the San Diego County Water Authority:

San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer today sent a letter to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board of Directors that lays out a potential compromise approach by both parties designed to end nearly a decade of litigation over MWD’s rates.

The letter includes specific, practical terms that respect both the Water Authority’s and MWD’s perspectives towards an equitable conclusion in coming weeks.

“Concluding all pending court cases is in the best interest of everyone involved, and it would allow us to begin a new era of collaboration on other important regional and state issues,” said Madaffer, who started his tenure as chair on Oct. 1. “I hope MWD will embrace this gesture of good faith to seek settlement, and that we can do so in an expeditious and fair manner.”

Madaffer’s letter builds on the commitment of his predecessor, prior Water Authority Board Chair Mark Muir, to seek an end to lawsuits that started in 2010 and involve billions of dollars of contested rates and charges.

The Water Authority won several significant items in two cases covering MWD’s rates for 2011-2014, including additional rights to approximately 100,000 acre-feet a year of MWD water, invalidation of an illegal contract clause that MWD used to deny support for local supply development projects, and damages and interest on tens of millions of dollars of unlawful Water Stewardship Rate charges by MWD. The courts allowed MWD to continue charging historic State Water Project costs in water transportation rates charged to the Water Authority.

Key terms outlined in Madaffer’s letter include:

  • Neither party should be expected to give up anything it won in court.
  • MWD would change the way it charges for delivering the Water Authority’s independent supplies from the Colorado River by adopting a fixed price and tying future price increases to an inflation index each January 1.
  • The Water Authority would drop pending claims challenging the legality of MWD’s Water Stewardship Rates that MWD charges on the purchase of MWD water supplies.
  • The Water Authority would accept $5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, a substantial reduction from the $8.9 million the trial court awarded to the Water Authority.
  • MWD’s Board would approve a pending agreement to provide through its Local Resource Program funding for the Carlsbad Desalination Project, the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Project, the Padre Dam-East County Advanced Water Purification Project and other pending local supply project agreements.
  • The Water Authority would be granted a sub-account in MWD’s Colorado River Lake Mead Storage Project to store 200,000 acre-feet of eligible Water Authority supplies in Lake Mead, which would benefit both MWD and the Colorado Basin states.

The letter is at 32TUwww.sdcwa.org/mwdrate-challengeU32T.

Background

More than 20 years ago, the Water Authority and its member agencies began improving the San Diego region’s water supply reliability by lessening reliance on MWD, which at the time supplied about 95 percent of all the water used in San Diego County.

The cornerstone of that diversification strategy is a set of agreements known collectively as the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement, which was signed in 2003 to secure independent water supplies for the Water Authority from the Colorado River. To deliver these supplies to San Diego County, the Water Authority must use pipelines operated by MWD because MWD owns the only large-scale conveyance facilities in Southern California for transporting water.

The Water Authority filed suit in 2010 seeking to invalidate MWD’s rates, and then filed additional suits in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 because MWD kept adopting rates using the same methodology and flawed cost allocations. A series of court decisions have been issued in the 2010 and 2012 cases. The other cases have been stayed in Superior Court during the appellate process on the initial two lawsuits.

For more information, go to www.sdcwa.org/mwdrate-challenge.

The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $220 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 24 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

California approves Ocean Acidification Action Plan

Early Action Can Reduce Harm to Shellfish, Crab, Squid and Salmon Fisheries, and Communities that Depend on Them

From the California Natural Resources Agency:

The California Ocean Protection Council today approved the state’s first Ocean Acidification Action Plan, which lays out concrete steps to protect ocean resources. The plan, which has been under consideration for more than two months, will help California prepare for ocean acidification, reduce its effects and boost the resilience of coastal industries and communities.

As global carbon emissions rise, seawater is becoming more corrosive due to the carbon dioxide (CO2) it absorbs. The acidification of the world’s oceans makes it difficult for zooplankton, oysters, crabs and other animals at the base of the food web to build and maintain their shells, which can have significant negative impacts on the health and productivity of California’s coastal and marine ecosystems and the communities and industries that depend on them.

Scientists expect the West Coast to experience some of the earliest and most severe changes, since the wind-driven upwelling that brings nutrient rich water to the surface and fuels the region’s productivity will also bring increasingly acidified waters to the surface.

“It has taken us years to understand the impacts of climate change on our oceans and how to address acidification, but with so many livelihoods at stake, inaction is no longer an option,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, who chairs the California Ocean Protection Council.

California’s work on ocean acidification started after widespread oyster die-offs in the Northwest from 2006 to 2009. The state has been studying the threat jointly with Pacific Coast neighbors since that time, and is a founding member of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification , which currently has 74 members. The alliance hosted an event focused on ocean acidification during the Global Climate Action Summit.

“Our ocean is on the frontline of climate change: it is our largest heat and carbon sink, and absorbs 30 percent of the CO2 released into the atmosphere every year,” said Deborah Halberstadt, Executive Director of the Ocean Protection Council. “California’s Ocean Acidification Action Plan outlines concrete steps we can take to protect the marine ecosystems that provide food, jobs, and a way of life for so many Californians.”

The Action Plan addresses ocean acidification in context with other threats like polluted runoff, warming, and rising seas. It promotes local solutions that are likely to provide multiple benefits – from improving water quality to promoting healthy seagrass, marsh, and kelp forest habitats. The Action Plan identifies six key strategies, and outlines five-year goals and actions for each:

  • Prepare for the full range of risks and impacts
  • Activate state leaders
  • Reduce the pollution that causes ocean acidification
  • Deploy living systems to store carbon and slow acidification
  • Build resilience of affected communities, industries and interests
  • Engage beyond state borders

To start, the Action Plan calls for a comprehensive assessment to identify the current and future risk to valuable fisheries like Dungeness crab and salmon, as well as California’s ocean-dependent tourism industry. This information will enable the state to prioritize actions to protect the species, industries and communities that will be affected first and worst.

“The fishing community will react once they understand the threat…more information is needed about effects on species that are commercially and recreationally important,” said urchin diver Bruce Steele, Captain, F/V Halcyon. “When the oyster industry got engaged in Washington, that created a huge push because the public believes when the fishing community is worried, they should be, too.”

The Action Plan was developed by the California Ocean Protection Council and in cooperation with the Ocean Science Trust . It was drafted with input from more than 70 people from the aquaculture and fisheries industries, state and national governments, private philanthropy, and the scientific community, and builds on other strategies underway related in other parts of the world. A draft plan was released for public comment in August, and highlights were shared at the Global Climate Action Summit last month in San Francisco.

During the next year, the Action Plan will be widely shared across the state, regionally, and at international forums. California will use it as a roadmap to make timely investments and decisions that advance the state’s 10-year vision on ocean acidification.

More information is available at http://www.opc.ca.gov/oa-action-plan/ .

About the California Natural Resources Agency

The California Natural Resources Agency’s mission is to restore, protect and manage the state’s natural, historical and cultural resources for current and future generations using creative approaches and solutions based on science, collaboration and respect for all the communities and interests involved. www.resources.ca.gov

About the California Ocean Science Trust

The California Ocean Science Trust (OST) is a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating progress towards our state vision for a healthy and productive coast and ocean. Our collaborative team draws together diverse perspectives to provide the science advice that can advance policy, funding and management decisions. A unique asset to the State, OST was established under the California Ocean Resources Stewardship Act (CORSA) of 2000. www.oceansciencetrust.org

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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