[UPDATED to Reflect Input from Board Member] RCSD Considering a Surcharge on Ratepayers During Periods of Water Conservation

Feature Redway Community Services District

Operator Cody Cox, Office Manager Glenn Gradin, and General Manager John Rogers of the RCSD [Photo by Kelley Lincoln]

Note: This article has been corrected to note that a surcharge is being considered for all customers, not just those following mandated water conservation.

The Water Conservation Ordinance, a 25% surcharge on customers who comply with during periods of voluntary and/or mandated water conservation, and other issues were discussed at April’s Redway Community Services District’s board meeting.

Water Conservation Ordinance

The Water Conservation Ordinance–which will stipulate when and why users should conserve water on a voluntary, mandatory and emergency basis came up for discussion at the meeting. Board Members Michael McKaskle and Scott Kender wanted to pass it while Chair Art McClure felt the March reading of the Ordinance had not been sufficient due to disagreement about the proposed Conservation Surcharge. RCSD will hold a Special Meeting to read and review the RCSD Water Conservation Ordinance on Wednesday Thursday, May 16th. The Public Hearing on the Water Conservation Ordinance will be a week later on Wednesday Thursday, May 23rd.

The need for a Conservation Ordinance arose three years ago with the Governor’s order during the drought. Diminishing flows in the RCSD water source, the South Fork of the Eel River, have caused General Manager John Rogers to propose the RCSD Conservation Ordinance have flexibility in beginning and ending its conservation measures on a nearly annual basis as low flows necessitate.

Those ratepayers and other interested members of the public who wish to give input can attend the special meeting on May 16th, or at the Public Hearing at the next regular board meeting on May 23rd when the Board is scheduled to vote on the Ordinance.

Water Affordability

In April, Redway’s CSD agenda items highlighted the significant statewide problem of increasing rates and costs to ratepayers for residential water and sanitation services. At about $100.00 a month, the current cost of water and sewer is often more than 10% of the earnings for low-income residents.

For example, to increase revenue for its costs, RCSD wants all landlords to pay a new connection fee and labor and materials costs to install a separate meter for every rental unit on every property in the RCSD.  The district will collect a base rate on each meter every month in addition to the water rate. The Board has initiated this policy and is working on an amnesty letter to inform landowners they can still get that work done before penalties for non-compliance begin.

Further, to avoid losing revenue when tenants walk away without paying their final bills, the RCSD Board will be reminding landlords they are responsible for any amount a tenant leaves unpaid when they move or have the water shut off due to inability to pay.

In addition, the District will remind the landowners that RCSD prohibits people from living in any house or unit within the district if they do not have RCSD water services.

Meanwhile, two members of the Board, Michael McKaskle and Scott Kender, feel strongly it is important to implement a 25% surcharge on customers who comply with mandated conservation measures in the dry months or during drought because RCSD will lose 12% of its $45,000 a month water revenue when ratepayers fully comply with conservation measures.

When asked about the consequences of increasing water rates for the low-income residents, the Board Members say its happening everywhere in California, and Board Member Linda Sutton says its better than water being privatized.

Percolation Limitation

In ongoing business, the Operations Report indicated recent storms had tested the capacity at the wastewater treatment plant with inflow and infiltration. [Both inflow and infiltration are terms to describe extra water that gets into the wastewater collection system during rainfall events.]

Inflow occurs when runoff is intentionally, although illegally, plumbed into the sewage system. Infiltration occurs when water seeps or leaks into the sewage collection piping through breaks in the District’s system.

RCSD has two ways to discharge treated wastewater. Both are legal, but one is preferable. RCSD was able to maintain the preferable method of discharging to a pond that seeps the treated water into the ground. If the volume were to overrun the percolation pond’s capacity, then treated water can be discharged straight to the river, but it’s less favorable.

General Manager, John Rogers, explained that discharging treated water through the percolation pond is the most limiting factor according to the RCSD’s capacity analysis performed when the Gyppo Ale Mill had applied for service in the RCSD. [The Gyppo Ale Mill has since moved to Shelter Cove.]

In April, the RCSD Board did not hear any news on when they might begin to apply for funding to work on increasing its wastewater treatment facility’s capacity, but in March, the RCSD Board did approve connecting an existing water customer, who has been using an existing septic tank, to RCSD’s wastewater service and encouraged the handful of neighbors to also connect to the RCSD wastewater service while the line is being laid.

Solar Project

In other infrastructure news, the Board discussed the solar power project to help reduce its PG&E bill which runs about $85,000 a year.

Due to PG&E program limitations, the district cannot completely offset all its energy costs. However, RCSD hopes to reduce the bill, and the carbon footprint, by about 90%.

UPDATE: During the March meeting, Board Members Kender and McKaskle had agreed that a surcharge of 25% to cover lost revenue caused by conservation measures is needed. McKaskle felt the District needed to wait to use the 218 process while Kender advocated beginning the surcharge immediately.  McKaskle and Kender along with General Manager Rogers compromise the Conservation Ordinance Committee  This lack of consensus in that committee led McClure, in April, to conclude the March reading of the Ordinance to be an unsatisfactory “first reading” of the proposed conservation ordinance.  McClure wanted a separate meeting for the Ordinance.  Sutton and GR. agreed with McClure.

The 25% surcharge has been separated from the Conservation Ordinance. The surcharge will be addressed in a separate Hearing in the future.

And Board Member McKaskle clarifies in the comment section below that all ratepayers will pay the surcharge, when and if it is enacted, during periods of conservation,not simply those who successfully conserve.

 

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70 comments

  • Wait… why would they surcharge people conserving water instead of just raising the water rates? It seems like that would accomplish their goal of making up revenue while encouraging saving water instead of incentivizing folks to not save water, like it seems this surcharge would do.

    Am I missing something?

    • And holding landlords responsible for their tenants’ unpaid water bills? Great way to encourage more affordable housing. That they require everyone not to have alternative water source in they live inside their district? Sewer I can understand as that effects the surrounding people but water?

      • Sigurd Anderson

        They will probably raise rents to cover the water bill.

      • I agree! If I’m the person who has the bill in my name, I’m responsible. If the bill is in somebody else’s name, then that person is responsible. If a customer skips and leaves an unpaid bill, it’s the duty of the unpaid party to collect on it, not the duty of the landlord to pay for somebody else’s unpaid bill. Maybe RCSD needs to develop a security deposit, and you know, have a professional approach to their customers.

    • Sigurd Anderson

      Funny the State never thought about giving extra money to water sellers to cover the losses in revenue that are the result of conservation.

      • What! And have to use money they want to spend themselves? Actually I vaguely remember something about some subsidizing water systems serving a substantially poor population but only down south.

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Redway has the highest water rates of ANY place I have ever lived, including Vacaville. I am sick of being gouged by these fat assholes!

    Folks in Redway use huge amounts of water for their pot plants, but these guys want to SURCHARGE people who CONSERVE?

    Am I misunderstanding something here?

    For a town with almost no available housing, and containing a large number of poor people, RCSD is determined to make it costly, rob the public, and treat everyone like criminals!

    The “Cowboy Water Company” is lost, drunk with power, and needs a new board!

    • We need a new sign, welcome to Humboldt the fxxk you in the ass county, bend over and grab your wallet. Wait no it should say that when you enter California.

    • “Folks in Redway use huge amounts of water for their pot plants”
      Those are the people being targeted. Those are the people who would most benefit by putting in a water collection system. If they are using metered water from RCSD, they are probably spending in the thousands of dollars a month.
      RCSD needs to stay solvent. If they don’t, then what will you do?

  • Sigurd Anderson

    That is an interesting math relationship going on.
    Charge high rates to encourage conservation which if entirely successful lowers the income for the water district to the point it becomes difficult to run the district and fund repairs and salary.
    Traditionally selling more of what pays the bills is what makes the whole thing work.

  • Yes Redway needs a new board.Illegal pots farms should not have Redway h20 and it is part of their job to contact the county about this. h20 should be sold at a fair price

    • Sigurd Anderson

      You do realize that consumption of water pays the bills right?
      There are no out of the area grants making up for lost revenue through conservation.
      I don’t see how lowering consumption rates will improve the situation.
      Are you arguing selling less water will make your rates go down?
      Because that will make it necessary to charge even more.

  • What the hell kind of thinking is this?

    “Meanwhile, two members of the Board, Michael McKaskle and Scott Kender, feel strongly it is important to implement a 25% surcharge on customers who comply with mandated conservation measures in the dry months or during drought because RCSD will lose 12% of its $45,000 a month water revenue when ratepayers fully comply with conservation measures.”

    What the heck? That is unbelievable! You are PENALIZING people for mitigating the drought! So that you won’t lose money. You should penalize the excessive water users — you’d recoup your losses AND help mitigate the drought.

    Unless all you care about is the money, and the screw the watershed.

    • My thoughts exactly, it seems to me they intend to punish those who comply!!! Which is totally ass backwards IM(ns)HO!!!! Punishing those in compliance is NOT the way to raise “missing funds”!!!! Possibly charging those not in compliance would make a HELLUVA LOT more sense than punishing those in compliance with an extra fee!!!

    • Vote ’em out! Run for the board. And write a letter TODAY to RCSD, telling them that you object to their proposed surcharge. Tell them it’s a rate increase that the customers have a right to oppose, and you’re opposing it. And tell everyone in the service district to do the same (there may be a specific phrase, I’ll call and ask them) If 51% of the customers object, they’re barred from taking the action.

      • I agree. Wtf are they thinking. With this kind of thinking they’d be charging people to take their recyclables to the recycling center. This is why I dont conserve water. Wats the point of trying to help if I’m going to get charged more. Vote these monkeys out.

  • Reminds me of when people bought energy efficient cars to avoid using as much gas and the government wanted to surcharge them because they we’re losing gas tax revenue.

  • The surcharge should be applied to those who don’t conserve.

    • Sigurd Anderson

      Have you seen the rates? They are a surcharge.
      I wonder if the regulators that mandated mandatory conservation took into account the hardship placed on water sellers.
      Or be up front with consumers that conservation would come with the price tag of increases in water rates.

  • I’m getting really tired of community service agencies ( water, hospital) treating the communities they exist to serve as a prey base instead of its reason to exist.

    Has the economic slide affected the thinking of these folks? Local businesses report a drop of as much as 60% per month since last July. But the RCSD wants to charge more to the folks that conserve water.

    Why not add that 12% as a surcharge to the people who don’t conserve?

  • Concerned about RCSD mental stability

    This is so bad. Needs to be fought. Totally backward thinking.
    Bad job RCSD, bad!

  • Local Skeptic Thru Observation

    The water board wants to waterboard us.

    How fitting.

  • Sigurd Anderson

    California passed a huge bond to increase water storage but no money to compensate water companies for less water sold.
    Imagine you sell 100 hot dogs per day and the State comes in and demands you sell no more than 50.

    • It doesn’t have a goddamned thing to do with hot dogs, [edit]!
      The state should take over this water district. People who conserve should not be penalized! Pot growers should not be rewarded for wasting municipal water on commercial ag. Stop defending this fucked upside down rate structure. There isn’t an ocean of water available for Redway, only one fork of a wild and scenic river.

  • Suzanne Morgan

    I too am outraged over their idea to charge people who SAVE water but I’m also confused about their idea to charge a monthly “rental” fee for their meter. Yes, it’s time to replace this board!

    • Sigurd Anderson

      They could lower rates and encourage more us but they are stuck in a bind.
      Using water is now frowned upon.

  • All talk. No one’s getting replaced on the waterboard.
    Pay up suckers!

    • Sigurd Anderson

      Do you have some magical solution to make up for shortfalls caused by less water being sold?
      Changing the board won’t change the simple math of gallons sold versus costs ensued.
      Unless you want the board to ditch conservation and encourage greater use to lower costs.

      • That’s like making a Ford Focus buyer pay for the Ford Super Duty 350 extra cost because it would keep the company solvent. No. You charge the buyer the cost of the product they use. If conservation makes it cost more per gallon, then the big users and little users pay the same increased cost per gallon price.

        • Sigurd Anderson

          That’s the simple free market solution.
          But caps on use have changed the whole water use landscape.

  • I was talking to a person who works for the county about why they haven’t fixed our road in the last 10 years and if we could do it our selves, he said if we worked on the road we could be sued, and if they fix it they won’t get the funding every year, I was like wtf!

    • Ah- the miracle of government control. Why do they do it that way? Because they can. At least as long as we put up with it.

  • Veterans friend

    I believe this is what, in normal times, we would call insanity.

  • You are replacing the Onion as a source of parody news.

  • The Eel is having it’s life blood sucked up by over usage, with more demand being put on it by both legal and illegal industries. Why in the heck would you want to penalize the folks who are trying to conserve this precious resource?

    Increase the base charge for everyone, and then charge in addition for over usage. Make sure the base charge has your overhead covered. Just makes good business sense to me.

    • Sigurd Anderson

      The higher the rates go the less gets used creating a downward spiral that has rates going up and up.

  • I suggest everyone here with a beef to pick about any of this get themselves a spot on the RSD Board of Directors. They do need some new bodies, maybe some of the new younger homeowners want to get involved?

    • But then they would have to bear the wrath of all the other knee jerk complainers who can’t do math. It’s a thankless job.

  • Yes, charging extra for conservation sounds ass-backwards, but the water district people have to pay the operation costs of maintaining the public utility. When consumption drops they get less money to keep the system working and the costs of running the system don’t drop proportionally to reduced consumption from conservation.

    This is a nonprofit public utility, nobody’s trying to get rich; they’re just trying to keep it running and meeting state requirements.

    If anything it’s a PR failure of the board and staff to explain the problem and the options to deal with it. That doesn’t change the problem of having enough revenue to operate though. There’s no free lunch, so chalk it up to the price of living in a town dependent on a stressed river for its water and sewage treatment. It’s never going to be easier, because of our variable yearly rainfall totals, increased population and human activities in the South Fork Eel watershed.

    • Not to mention letting lazy asshole growers waste as much as they want to grow weed in their back yards.

    • Sigurd Anderson

      Charge more people use less then they charge more and people use less.
      A classic downward spiral.
      The State has done nothing to address this.
      It’s economics 101.
      It’s very poorly thought out.
      I’m surprised nobody predicted that this would happen since
      it goes against basic market forces.

  • If it moves, tax it. If it doesn’t move, tax it.

    Or as was said in the movie Wall Street, “Greed Is Good”.

  • if they want to charge people who use less more, what are they going to charge someone if they use zero water? Bet that would be a hell of a bill.

  • Wait…. what????

    “In addition, the District will remind the landowners that RCSD prohibits people from living in any house or unit within the district if they do not have RCSD water services.”

  • Know worries folks, Redway will be a ghost town in two years. Your income stream has been cut 60% and getting bigger by the day.

  • Divide by Zero

    “Further, to avoid losing revenue when tenants walk away without paying their final bills, the RCSD Board will be reminding landlords they are responsible for any amount a tenant leaves unpaid when they move or have the water shut off due to inability to pay.”

    Really, so now the bureaucrat can punish an innocent person for the misdeeds of another. Must be the same clowns the fantasize about taxing cow flatulence.

  • Veterans friend

    Where I live, there is a base rate, currently $58 per month and it is the property owner’s responsibility to pay, not the tennant. Failure to pay results in disconnection. To re-connect there is a fee of $500. Overuse, beyond the generous base gets added charges. And overuse for 2 or 3 months gets a huge fine.
    This encourages conservation & repair of leaks. I have a big garden and have never exceeded the limits. I think very few people get fined. We are one of the tiny water companies & I am pretty pleased with how things are handled.

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Just another SoHum “public agency” operated with senselessness and outrageously misguided, incompetent, and corrupt people in charge.

    Now let’s talk about SHCHD, who doesn’t want the “property tax surcharge” to expire…

    • Oh great, you had to go and say it. Now the board members are reading your comment saying to themselves “ you know a property tax surcharge would help with our situation also”. Now they’re probably going to try to put one on the ballot also. Although they probably do provide service to more people in sohum than that pill mill in Garberville.

      • Taurus Ballzhoff

        You know, Mike, there are TWO things you can do about SHCHD.

        1) Vote NO ON MEASURE F

        2) Don’t go there, ever.

        That was easy!

        For RCSD, about all you can do is protest, or move. But, in my opinion, any new tax in SoHum, will be a non-starter…

        • Done and done. Really there isnt a third option? Seems like there should be a third option? I must of missed the memo. I don’t go there now (even though I pay several taxes on several parcels) mainly because I don’t need opioids.

          • Taurus Ballzhoff

            Well, the current SHCHD parcel tax is expiring, so you are getting a TAX CUT!

            Tell everyone to VOTE NO ON MEASURE F!! The tax cut is automatic!

            Thanks!

  • Michael McKaskle

    I find your headline misleading and the text hints to me that Kelly does not quite get it. I wish we could charge only people who use tons of water a punitive price and subsidize those who conserve but that would be illegal under prop 218, which rules CSD rate setting and in my opinion was written to hobble public agencies (it does not apply to private systems). The fine points of 218 are still being litigated.
    The surcharge I proposed would apply to anybody whether they conserve or not. We earn our water related payroll mostly by selling water. If we sell significantly less water for a summer we either need to raise our base rate on everybody (unfair) or raise the price we sell each 100 cubic feet of water for. If people conserve their bills stay the same, if they don’t they go up. Phrasing it as if the surcharge applies only to those who conserve instead of as a 25% drought time surcharge is misleading and inflammatory.
    I repeat… It would be illegal to put a drought usage surcharge on high users, which is the obvious solution. We can raise rates during droughts on everybody, but only to the extent we are replacing revenues lost to conservation.
    A comment says we failed at PR, I say Kelly fails at reporting. Kym, please clarify the headline or put my unofficial, not board approved, personal yet informed comment at the top.

    • I recommended Kym pin your clarification to the top. She doesn’t have the tools to do it in this program. Nonetheless, it is accurate that you and Scott Kender strongly advocate for the surcharge. I misunderstood and thought it was for those rate payers whose use dropped, thereby causing a decrease in rcsd revenue. I clarified above that it’s for all rcsd customers.

      And I also clarified that it has been separated from the water ordinance itself. That the surcharge will be taken up the month after the water ordinance hearing.

      However, despite these important details, I stand by the observation that the district, although not decided, leans toward a surcharge during periods of conservation.

      The voters’ purpose of passing 218 wasn’t to “hobble public agencies” but to give the tax base ample opportunity to voice concerns about tax increases. As a reporter I successfully communicated that you and Kender pretty strongly advocated increasing costs for ratepayers. And the story includes your reason why you advocate the surcharge.

      A commentor points out that the issue is complex. And the story points out that the complexity is statewide not just at RCSD.

  • oh! GREAT! We conserve water, not because we are eco-minded but because we can’t afford the outrageous rates! So now they are going to charge more because we can’t afford the water (thereby conserving our use) and are being responsible for our bill/use by paying promptly on time for said use? WTF! Humboldt County gets more F***-ed up all the time! What next? Renner charging a surcharge because during nice weather we walk to conserve fuel? PGE charge more because we have more daylight and warmer weather thereby using less electricity? What’s next … the grocery store is going to charge you to enter the premises because you happen to grow a few of your own veggies and slap you with a tax?! When the F are they going to charge us for breathing the air?!

  • Maybe it’s time the put meters on the business in the Evergreen Business Park. Some of these places pump water all day and pay a simple flat rate that never changes. Imagine being able to run a hose all day every day and know it would only cost a $100 a month

  • I understand that lots of growers are putting in their owns wells to bypass the water dept altogether.

    • ‘The water department,’ as in STATE Water Resource Board?

      Remember Oroville Dam collapsed for lack of maintenance by this same STATE Board of care-not$.

    • Did this not post?

      ‘The Water Department?’ As in, the STATE Water Resource Board?

      Remember the Oroville Dam collapse was due to lack of maintenance by the STATE Water Resource Board.

  • Just another master slave ploy from the purveyors of nonsense using outdated scare-city tactic.

    Primary water is why we do not have a water shortage:

    http://primarywater.org/

    It’s not lack of money. It’s lack of value.

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