Ready for Another Water Rate Increase?

Probably the biggest vote at tomorrow’s City Council meeting is the Red Oak development . Josh Ferguson has already discussed that issue in his excellent article here so there’s no need for me to pile on (just read it if you haven’t already).

What I do want to do is draw attention to another vote on the City Council. Agenda Item #8 includes the appointment of Fullerton’s representative to the Fullerton Water Board.

This is our current representative.

Now, while Jan Flory has come under a lot of deserved criticism from this blog over the years, and in fact supported three separate water rate increases in a single year while on the City Council, it is only fair to mention that she has been appropriately skeptical on the Poseidon development, which if approved will raise our water rates even further – although it is also only fair to point out that she has recently signaled she would be willing to support the project to maintain her position on the board.

Poseidon Water is a desalination developer that who wants to build a $1 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach, and wants the Orange County Water District to help guaranty construction of the project AND agree to purchase 56,000 acre feet (eighteen billion gallons) for more money than the County currently pays to import water, for the next fifty years.

How much more? The specific amount has been something of a moving target, but this appears to be the current plan:

(Blue represents what we currently pay to MDW, red, green and purple represent the crony capitalism surtax)

Keep in mind that while (per their own admission) Poseidon is about twice as expensive as MWD water, water purchased from MWD is itself far more expensive than the groundwater which Poseidon would displace, which is, essentially, free, minus the cost associated with pumping and/or replacing the groundwater. Also, Poseidon is angling for a “Take or Pay” contract with OCWD, meaning the ratepayers buy their water first, even if we don’t need it, regardless of whether we have an abundance of free ground water, water in Lake Mead or water we will have to flush to the ocean because our capacity is full.

So who will the Council appoint? Bruce Whitaker (a Poseidon critic) was the City’s appointee from 2013-2014, until he was deposed for voting against the interests of a client of Curt Pringle & Associates, and Doug Chaffee sought the appointment in 2012, so he may seek it again. Flory wants it as well, despite no longer being on the council and no obvious base of support, so it seems to be between Whitaker and Chaffee. With opposition to the Poseidon plant growing at the county level this could be an important vote for the future of this project – and your future water rates.

15 Replies to “Ready for Another Water Rate Increase?”

  1. Flory is demonstrating unfortunate signs of dementia. The fact that she is willing to do whatever she is told on Poseidon means she is just a puppet. A demented puppet? Not good job qualifications. She also has trouble getting along with her water board colleagues. Bad temperament.

    1. Sorry, Disillusioned, but it is absolutely factually incorrect to say that she has trouble getting along with her water board colleagues or that she has bad temperament. I have seen her at almost every board meeting she has attended, so I know what I’m talking about. As for doing “whatever she is told” on Poseidon, that would probably fit any other person appointed by the city council to the OCWD, since it would be her duty to represent the her city. But Flory has proven that she will give the council and the public honest information about the project. Then it’s up to your city council to make the right decision.

      John Earl

  2. Poseidon is a classical OC public/private scam where the public takes all the risk and the so-called operator gets paid for water at the MWD rate plus a guaranteed premium.

    Ultimately the water will go to South County where Rancho Mission Viejo is building 14,000 housing units.

  3. P.S.

    Meantime during our last rains 4 billion gallons of water passed through OCs storm drain systems/Santa Ana River and found its way to the ocean.


  4. Fullerton water is ok drinking water. After all the shit in Flint, Michigan, I do not trust a change which is not necessary and doesn’t do anything for Fullerton. Poseidon sounds too much like poison

  5. Are any of these scoundrels capable of stating some principles and then sticking to them? Why is Flory still putting herself up for sale in retirement? That’s low, even for her.

  6. Do you know how ridiculously cheap water is right now? This plan to build desal is a wise one and will only cost more if we wait. The increased costs associated with trying to save a penny now will cost you dollars more for the rest of your lives. The author is misguided and is very misleading. Orange County stands to add at least another 5 million people over the next decade. This is an arid desert with absolutely no surface storage infrastructure for water to speak of. Lake Mead’s flow is in the hands of the bureau of reclamation. All parts of the Southwestern United States are waiting in line for that water. Desal is a cheap insurance policy for the OC. Anyone that opposes it is either misinformed or perhaps just plain foolish.

    1. It’s not cheap. It’s absurdly expensive. North of $2000 an acre foot.

      It’s also not an insurance policy. Insurance policies provide protection against catastrophic loss. Poseidon does no such thing. It provides a minuscule amount of water with an exorbitant fee. You argument suggests we ought to buy caviar to insure against a chicken egg shortage. Sure, it’s absurdly expensive, but we need eggs! Instead, we should be taking the money we’re simply handing over to Poseidon and investment in proven alternatives. Shoot, bribing people to rip out their lawns is TWENTY times more cost effective than this boondoggle.

      Anyone who can’t see that signing a sixty year contract for the most expensive water available while we haven’t even come close to exhausting conservation or alternative means of supply is either misinformed or perhaps just plain foolish. This is a simple question about math. I guess you can either do it or you can’t.

      In any event, all arguments concerning technology aside, THIS deal is simply a bad one. Demanding ratepayers shoulder a sixty year take or pay contract to enrich shareholders in Connecticut is just dumb. If we really need to manufacture potable water from sea water, we can do it ourselves. OCWD/OCSD have a clear model for how this is can and should be done, should the need arise.

    2. Take a look at the graph I included in the article. The Poseidon deal i structured to be more expensive than MWD water for the next 50 years. And MWD water os structured to be more expenice than the water from our local aquifer.

    3. “Orange County stands to add at least another 5 million people over the next decade.”

      Uh, you’re off by a factor of about 25.

  7. Is there a 20 (or even better 50 year) water source plan developed by water professionals that look at all the potential ways to supply the current and expected water needs for the city in the planning horizon? The plan should provide all the costs, capital and opetation, and provide the best value for money recommended option, usually based on the best NPV and acceptable supply and quality risk. To make a decision of this importance requires real engineering judgment, not emotion.

  8. Nobody is mentioning all the water that was lost out of Laguna Lake for years and years. What was it 150,000 gallons a day – replaced by A-1 MWD water.

    Hard to square that total waste with a water shortage, eh?

    1. It was even worse than that. The city waited until the statute of limitations against the civil engineers who performed the repairs to the lake had lapsed before going public. Had they reported it sooner the City may have been able to recover the repair costs if the leakage had occurred as a result of their negligence.

      1. Yes. They could have at least collected something off of the engineer’s professional liability policy. But that’s not the way things are done in Fullerton.

        Remember the Basque Yard fiasco?

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