Despite vehement opposition from several Pine Cove speakers

The Idyllwild Water District’s Consolidation Committee held its first public meeting Monday night and, despite the stern warnings from Pine Cove residents, it will not be the final meeting either.

Chair Peter Szabadi acknowledged that the committee did not have a plan with steps or goals to create one Hill water district. But the committee intends to solicit members from both the Fern Valley and Pine Cove water districts in order to broaden participation and better assess future options.

Both he and fellow committee member Sue Nash pointed out that consolidation was only one option of many to achieve greater cooperation and joint projects.

“[IWD’s water] contamination and future drought are really community problems and need to be solved by the community as a whole,” said Tom Paulek, Nash’s spouse.

Nevertheless, the majority of Pine Cove speakers were adamant and vehement in their comments and opinions of IWD.

For example, Nancy Borchers began her comments, “I don’t want Pine Cove to be taken over by Idyllwild. You’ve had decades of problems. Idyllwild is acting like schoolyard bullies.”

Fellow Pine Cove resident Jeff Smith was less kindly in his comments of IWD’s actions over the past two decades, although this board was not involved in those decisions.

“What I view as a liability [in IWD], you view as an asset. It’s completely polarizing,” he began and then enumerated decisions going back 20 years or more that he felt were faulty or just wrong, including the district’s reliance of Strawberry Creek water.

Consequently, he claimed that IWD simply wanted to divert PCWD’s lease money to projects in IWD. “I do not trust this district in terms of watershed management,” Smith proclaimed.

Idyllwild resident Vic Sirkin felt that “consolidation could address everybody’s priorities and needs in a proper fashion. There will come a time to share responsibility of use of this watershed.”

Nash noted that in 2004 and 2005, the Riverside County Local Agency Formation Commission had studied the water service on the mountain. At the time of that report, it concluded there was no need because it found considerable cooperation among the districts. The San Jacinto Mountain Water Study Agency was just completing a mountain-wide water supply and need study. The mutual-aid agreements were in effect and there was discussion of joint projects, which would benefit multiple agencies.

LAFCO is working on a new water service report, which may be completed in early fall.

“We have no plan to bludgeon you,” Szabadi promised. “Sue has tried to contact members of the other boards. I will try myself. Maybe there is something positive for each district to contribute.”

In response, Borchers suggested the committee “recommend to the IWD board any symbol of good faith.” To which Sirkin suggested that the district consider selling the parcels it bought several years ago near Foster Lake to monitor treated wastewater discharges in the lake.