Fern Valley Water down to Stage 2: Committee examining possible water-rate increase

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The Fern Valley Water District directors agreed to move from water-conservation Stage 3 to Stage 2.

General Manager Victor Jimenez told the board, “I wanted to go to Stage 1, but we can’t. The state still mandates for local government to ask restaurants and hotels if users want water.

“Our Stage 1 doesn’t have that stipulation,” Jimenez said. “I verified with Best Best and Krieger [the FVWD legal counsel] the lowest we can reduce is to Stage 2.”

The board concurred with Jimenez’s decision to begin Stage 2 on Monday, March 20. FVWD has four water-conservation stages and once an emergency is declared, the general manager has authority to change the stage.

Director Robert Krieger supported the decision and observed that another conservation stage reduction should await a fuller recovery of the groundwater levels of the district wells.

“Yes, one year of rain won’t get us out of a [long-term] drought,” Jimenez agreed.

Earlier, during his report, Jimenez said, “All wells except one are coming up a little bit.” The groundwater level of two of the wells, which were used in January, rose 7 feet in February. The flow of Strawberry and Tahquitz creeks has slowed some, but continues to be substantial and a good water-supply source, according to Jimenez.

Later in the meeting, Krieger, chair of the Rate and Revenue Committee, reported that he and fellow committee member Director Trisha Clark are examining the prospects — needs and justifications — of recommending a water-rate increase later this year.

The proposal may include an increase in the fixed-rate level and a reduction in the number of tiers.

“All water districts are struggling with revenue now. We ask customers to reduce usage and that affects revenue,” Jimenez said.

The long-term capital improvement program is being reviewed, according to Krieger. The pipeline-replacement plan may place a higher priority on areas where more leaks have been found and repaired, rather than simply relying on the age of the pipe.

Although the committee has not finished its work and prepared a report for the whole board’s review, President Jim Rees expressed concern about limiting the number of tiers.

“I think this is fair to charge people using a ton of water,” he stated.

Krieger added that the committee recommendation will be for a five-year period and will comply with Proposition 218 requirements for public notice and hearing.

In other business, the board authorized a request to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters to conduct the biannual election of directors. The August vote would be by mail.

The terms of Rees and Krieger expire in December, as well as that of former Director Charlie Wix, who retired at the end of January.

The board is still seeking applicants to replace Wix. Both Rees and Director Richard Schnetzer said they have spoken to several people about joining the board, but none have submitted their letters of interest.

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