TUD Moves Forward Planned Water Rate Increase
Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne Utilities District board voted to unanimously, 5-0, to give ratepayers notice that the district is planning to increase water rates in September.
The board voted to issue the state-required Proposition 218 legal notice. Customers have 45 days to appeal the rate increase, and if 50-percent do so, the plan would be derailed. If not, the board is then planning to hold a public hearing in Mid-July to officially adopt the new plan. We reported earlier that the district needs to raise an additional $4.5 million annually to acquire and maintain infrastructure and water rights that it is working to acquire from PG&E. It includes the Tuolumne Main Canal, Pinecrest Reservoir and Lyons Dam. The district says the average residential ratepayer will initially see about $16-per month added to the bill.
Nathan Rosasco, a leader with the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau, spoke up during the public comment period. He said the Farm Bureau is not against the infrastructure acquisition, but he and others have questions and concerns.
He noted, “If you raise these rates to the point where we can’t absorb them, there is really only one alternative, and that is to cut the water off. And I’m already talking to people who are saying that.”
Rosasco also asked about an agreement that has been in place for decades that allows TUD to receive water supply from PG&E for free.
TUD General Manager Don Perkins responded, “That free water, and 1983 contract, is going away, whether TUD owns the system, or some other entity owns the system.”
Rosasco questioned whether that was something in writing or more of an assumption.
TUD District Attorney Jesse Barton responded, “PG&E has been a wonderful, wonderful partner, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of lawyers to find problems with a contract, and renegotiate it. What TUD is doing here today is planning for the future of Tuolumne County.”
The TUD Board voted 5-0 to move forward in the rate process in anticipation of finalizing negotiations soon with PG&E over acquiring the water rights and infrastructure.