Measure I Proponents Argue Water Supply Project Essential to Davis’ Future


Nearly a month ago, the Vanguard met with, and interviewed, the opposition to the Measure I campaign.  On Friday, the Vanguard sat down with three representatives of the Yes on Measure I campaign – two members of the WAC, Chair Elaine Roberts Musser and Alf Brandt, along with Alan Pryor.

“The Davis-Woodland Water Supply project ensures that Davis for decades to come will have a clean, safe, and sustainable water supply,” said Alf Brandt who works with the California State Assembly as a principal consultant on water resources and delta management.  Along those lines he argued that the project is “better for the Delta.”

“Our challenges with the waste water are a critical challenge for us and we’re not in compliance with the 2007 permit,” he said, though he noted right now that is not being enforced.  The city of Davis has until 2015 or 2017 depending, he said, on the constituents.  “Dumping salinity into the Delta through Willow Slough and then the Bypass,” he added, is something that the state and regional efforts are working hard to mitigate.

Alan Pryor cited a number of reasons for his support for the project, beginning with his concern “for the reliability of our deep water aquifer.”  He added, “I think there’s the issue of the sustainability of our aquifer, we don’t know for certain how long it’s going to last, how reliable it’s going be, whether it’s going to be subject to contamination from the intermediate aquifer – that’s certainly occurred in some cases.”

“I also share Alf’s concerns about discharge into the wetlands, in particular selenium.  We have water that’s very highly laden with selenium,” he continued.  “It’s something that if you’re really interested in protecting the environment, I think you have to be concerned about.”

Alan Pryor argued, “I don’t think we can continue to rely on simply punching more straws into the ground, into the deep water aquifer.  I don’t think it’s sustainable.  I don’t think it’s the environmentally proper solution.”

For Elaine Roberts Musser, “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.  We’re going to have to go to a conjunctive use project at some point and we’ve delayed already.  We could have tapped into Lake Berryessa at some point and never did, we missed that opportunity.”

She also cited the increased frequency over the last ten to fifteen years in which “wells have become contaminated or subsided.”

“I don’t think this is a question of if, it’s a question of when,” she reiterated.  “And why not now when the construction costs are the cheapest?  Why burden our future children with what should be done now?”

Alan Pryor added, “This is a really unique opportunity to partner with Woodland and do a regional project.  We’re both really going to benefit economically from this.  There’s no doubt that by partnering with Woodland, we’re both saving many many millions of dollars.”

He argued that putting the project off for five or ten years, as some have suggested, would preclude that beneficial partnership.

“We have to do it now and we have to take advantage of that,” he said.  “We have to plan for our future, not just five or ten years into the future, but 30 to 40 years into the future.  That’s really what we’re doing here, we’re taking a very long range view of a very pressing problem that has been kicked down the road for the last 50 years.”

Project Alternatives

If the project went down, what would be the alternatives that Davis had left?

“First of all, we would have to deal with the rates,” Alf Brandt responded.  “The rates, we would have to find another alternative to increase rates…  We are already in the hole in paying how much we owe on taking care of basic things.”

“The alternative,” he said, “would be a stopgap.  It would be something to do the best that we can.  Perhaps some more deep water wells.  But I don’t know that that’s an option.  So short term, it’s something that may give us a few years.”

Elaine Roberts Musser said that she spoke with Dianna Jensen, the City’s Principal Civil Engineer in the Water Division about that issue, and one suggestion might be to dip into the sewer fund temporarily.

“I suppose we can go into sewer fund,” she said, “but eventually that’s going to run out too.  We need to build the new wastewater treatment plant.  So you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“I don’t really think there’s a choice here,” she said pointedly.

West Sacramento Option

None of the three believed that West Sacramento would be a viable or realistic option.

“Building a pipeline for 12 miles to get water that’s horrible quality from a chlorination plant?” Alf Brandt said skeptically.  “I don’t think that’s an option.  That’s not a cost-effective short-term option.”

“If anyone’s really serious considering that option, they’ve got to go over to West Sacramento and open a few spigots there,” Alan Pryor added.  “It is very very strongly chlorinated water.  You have a real smell of chlorine coming out of there.”

“As much as people complain about water quality in Davis because of the minerals, at least we don’t have the chlorine smell associated with it, He added.  “That’s the direct result of what Alf said, basically it’s a chlorination plant where they use chlorine as their primary oxidizing agent.  Chlorine is not a good thing for living organisms, oxygen is a good thing for living organisms.  That’s what you want to put in the water, not chlorine.”

West Sacramento, Alf Brandt said, would require the city to change their permits, which would take one to three years, then to build a pipeline, which would include a permit for a pipeline, through the wildlife refuge.

The city would have to use the railroad right of way to avoid the delta, “because if we build it through the causeway, that would take us right through the delta,” Mr. Brandt said.  “That means we would have to go to the Delta Stewardship Council.”

The city would have to make the case that building a pipeline through the wetlands is consistent with the goals and purpose of the Delta plan.

“We would have to negotiate with West Sacramento which probably could be done,” he said, but that leaves the issues about water quality.  “We can’t buy water from West Sacramento, we would have to bring our own water and have them treat it.  They have a special water right that doesn’t apply to us.”

“The wild card here,” Alan Pryor added, “is we have basically a take or pay contract with Conaway Ranch – we’re on the hook for that water to use that, whether we use it or not.  It’s $1.6 million per year increasing annually.”

“The other problem with the West Sacramento option,” Elaine Roberts Musser added, “Is that we’re a customer not a partner.  That’s a problem.”

The concern is if West Sacramento continues to develop in the future, their development might put the city of Davis in conflict for the use of the water and their plant.

Nor does the West Sacramento option save the city a lot of money over the Woodland option, Ms. Roberts Musser continued.

Mr. Brandt added, “We put ourselves in the decision of West Sacramento (long-term) in terms of what they want to charge us.  There would be some kind of contract we would negotiate for a certain period, but when they decide to grow, they decide they need more capacity and they can’t afford to give us their excess capacity, then that changes the dynamic and that’s up to them.”

Impact of Rate Hikes on the Low Income and Fixed Income Resident

The question of costs figures to be critical.  The $113 million figure is just the base costs of the project without factoring in the interest on the loans, which figure to increase that cost perhaps to 2.5 times that amount.

That leads to a rate structure that shows the costs will more than double but fall somewhat short, at least in the next five years, of tripling.

“I think you have to put it into perspective of what the other costs are of living in Davis,” Alan Pryor responded.  He didn’t discount the fact that $50 to $100 increases in costs are not insignificant, “but look at what it costs to rent a home in Davis.”

He suggests that, unless one is living in a subsidized housing unit, you are looking at paying $1200 per month at the very minimum, with most paying more than that.

“So in fact, getting the very high quality water is actually very modest, in terms of your actual costs of living in Davis,” he said citing the increasing parcel taxes for schools and parks. “I think it’s a small price to pay, relative to the other costs it takes to live in Davis.”

“We’re going to pay one way or another and I think the way we structured this financially is the most prudent option available to us,” he said.

Alf Brandt noted that Davis residents, in comparison to other communities, pay a lot less for their water.

“The other piece is you have to look at their cost savings as well,” he said.  He cited the costs of replacement fixtures from mineral deposits, water softeners, and bottled water with better water quality that people may be purchasing.  “All of those are important factors to factor into (the cost).”

Mr. Brandt also cited property values based on the fact, “We’re well known for having horrible quality of water.”  He said, “In the long term, if you don’t have a sustainable… if at some point you don’t have water or you don’t have good quality water… at some point, that happens, values of Davis property go down substantially.”

He is not arguing that this is imminent, but in looking at the long term he sees declining property values as a distinct possibility.

Alan Pryor noted that, through the Loge-Williams water rates, “we are really giving people the opportunity to reduce the impact of those costs.”

The model provides for at least 25% conservation for the city as a whole, but within that, individuals, through modifications in their outdoor use and landscaping, can reduce their usage far more and actually save money despite this rate increase.

Rates Will Go Up Regardless – But Not Sure How Much

At the same time, Elaine Roberts Musser argued, “There’s a cost to not doing the project. If you don’t do the project and the wells start to fail… there’s a cost there too.  If we can’t come into compliance, we get fined by the state.  And the state has told us that they’re not going to allow a community to benefit from not coming into compliance.”

“I think you have to understand, if you don’t do the project there’s a cost as well.  It’s not a freebie,” she added.

What the representatives from Measure I campaign could not address in specifics was the costs, and therefore the rate increase, in the absence of a project.

Alan Pryor cited the need to pay the upfront costs of the JPA (Joint Powers authority), which has been borrowed.

“We can’t rely on the intermediate aquifer any longer,” Mr. Pryor said.  “So we would have to drill more deep wells” at the minimum cost of $2 million.  “Or we would have to use some obscenely expensive options to clean up that wastewater from our wastewater treatment plant as it goes into the wetlands.”

“Quality experts have said that going to surface water conjunctive use is the right way,” Mr. Pryor continued.  “Even the naysayers on the Water Advisory Commission, they voted 10-0 to go to conjunctive water use.  So everyone there is in uniform agreement that we have got to do something.”

However, they cannot answer the question of how much the water rates would go up, absent the project.

Ms. Roberts Musser contended that we cannot know if a well is going to fail, “You cannot predict that.”

However, there are known costs, including infrastructure repairs and paying back of loans.

Alan Pryor responded that he thinks the city can figure out the current costs.  But he said, “What about in ten years, we’re not going to be able to do business as usual dumping our wastewater into the wetlands.  We know that.”

“The days of cheap water are over,” Elaine Roberts Musser added.

JPA Controversy

The issue of the JPA has been a touchy one, with critics claiming that, by forming the JPA, the city has reduced its own autonomy and discretion.

But for Alan Pryor, he sees the JPA as a positive measure, enabling the city to reduce its costs by millions.  “In Woodland’s case, they’ve saved at least $25 million over going about it alone,” Mr. Pryor said.  “In Davis’ case, I don’t think we completely evaluated what our costs would be of doing it alone, but we know that it would be substantial, at least $10 to $15 million more on a proportionate basis,” he said.  “So number one we’re going to save a bundle of money.  Number two we are going to have less impact on the environment because we are drawing it from a single spot on the river.”

Alan Pryor disagrees that Davis loses autonomy in the JPA arrangement, noting, “We have the same representation on the JPA Board as Woodland does. ”  He argued that when it came down to making the cost-sharing agreement with Woodland, “I thought they were more than fair.”

“I thought it was very equitable and upfront,” he added.  “They’ve done nothing to show themselves to be bad partners.”

“We get a 50% vote on the JPA and we’re only taking 40% of the water.  I think that’s pretty fair,” he said.

“From a policy perspective,” Alf Brandt added, “it’s consistent with where the state has been pushing regions to go, to do more regional collaboration.”

He argued that it may enable them to back us up in case of an emergency or crisis, stating, “That type of collaboration may be of value to us in the long term.”

In terms of the fairness issue, the point has been raised that Davis is paying 30% more per gallon of water through this deal than Woodland.  But Alan Pryor did not see this as a problem, “Your capital costs are going to be cheaper for Woodland because they happen to be closer to the river (which makes for) a much larger pipeline coming down here, but we’re saving a lot of money too by going in with Woodland.”

He said, we could move the intake point to perhaps make it closer to Davis, but he also pointed out that we are saving money on that intake point by “taking advantage of the federal government’s largesse at helping pay for a very world class intake structure that quite honestly, if we had to do it on our own, was another $8 million right there.”

A close look at the numbers, as we did a month or so ago, shows that the basic difference was the length of the pipelines.  Had we decided to move the diversion point, Alan Pryor and others argue, we would have a higher cost for the intake structure.

“I thought Woodland was very fair too, they absorbed half of the chunk of that pipeline that ran down to the southern edge of their area of influence.  They said they may use that in the future,” he added.

One of the questions that came up was whether the WAC looked deeply enough into issues other than the rate structure – whether we need the water, how much we need, what the alternatives were, among others.

Water Advisory Commission Thoroughly Examines the Issues

Unlike the opposition to Measure I, the proponents, two of whom served on the WAC, felt that they had looked into the issue sufficiently.

“We spent probably two-thirds of the time on the project, whether it was going to be surface water or go with all ground water,” Alf Brandt said.  “We spent two-thirds of our time, of the year, doing that.  We have only done rates in the last four months.  I say we spent more of it thinking about what the project was.”

He noted that they spent time on the necessary size, which was reduced from 18 mgd down to 12 mgd.

Elaine Roberts Musser argued that some opponents of Measure I who served on the WAC tried to revisit the same issues over and over again.

“We had to cut him off,” she said.  “At some point, you have to fish or cut bait.  I think the WAC did a good job of going through thousands of pages of documents, listening to lots of experts, testimony, and I think we made good, reasoned decisions that are the best for the community.”

“What confuses me is that they are taking the position that they can just manage the groundwater, that they need no project at all,” she continued, “which flies in the face of their own vote at a time when the project was more expensive than it is now.”

“I think they have a credibility problem,” she stated.

Alan Pryor, the only non-WAC member on this panel, argued that their approach was very methodical, examining critical questions such as whether Davis needs surface water.

“They spent meeting after meeting evaluating that question and everyone agreed, yes we do need it.  We need conjunctive use,” he said.  “If you hear the No on I forces now, they’re trying to revisit that whole issue that was unanimously agreed to by the naysayers on the whack.”

He argued that they had the opportunity to oppose conjunctive use, but failed to do so.  Any effort now, he argued, is revisionism.

Alan Pryor also took issue with the notion that the JPA process is tantamount to privatization.  “This DBO process is not privatization in the sense that they own the plant.  We are hiring a private operator to operate the plant under very very very stringent criteria.”

“They have defined goals that they will have to meet; if they do not meet those water quality objectives, then they have to pony up the money,” he said.

Alan Pryor argued it is quite elegant that you push all of this initial risk back on the large vendors.

Bottom line for Alan Pryor, “I don’t think there’s an issue in Davis that has ever been looked at more critically and more analytically than this water project in Davis.”

Elaine Roberts Musser noted that when they had critical issues that were not easily resolved, they would add extra meetings and special meetings in an effort to resolve them.

Elaine Roberts Musser, in noting the necessity for the timing of the project, noted that Graham Fogg, testifying before the WAC, told them, ” ‘Before, it was assumed that the intermediate aquifer was invulnerable’ and he predicted that in fact it would start to fail.  And he turned out to be right.”

She sent the Vanguard his exact quote.  He said that the wells are failing “at the rate of about, what, a well every two years or so, for the past 15 years in Davis, you’re seeing adverse impacts.”

She said, “The same is true of the deep aquifer, we can’t wait anymore.  Once the damage is done, you can’t undo it.  Once the subsidence happens, you can’t go back.”

Was the Project Rushed

Finally, the panel addressed the issue as to whether the process was rushed.  The point that the proponents like to make against this was that the process has gone on for 10 to 15 years.

But really, if you look at how the WAC process unfolded, there were times when they ran up against the time deadline and were seemingly forced to make a decision.

So the Vanguard asked them this question – which is based on a point made by the opposition that if the WAC made their decision in year or more from now, we would have a very different project: if we had another year to look at this, how different would the project be?

Alan Pryor responded, “I think the WAC would have come to the exact same conclusions that they did.  They did this under a tight timeframe, there’s no doubt about that.  But I don’t think they did it haphazardly or without considering all of the available options.”

“Maybe we are doing this a year or two ahead of where we’d like to because we have a partner that is doing this under some deadlines and they are moving ahead, the train is leaving the station,” he said.  “But I don’t think that in itself means that we didn’t do a thorough and completely analytical job in evaluating all of the options on that.”

He noted that they often met multiple times per month and took little time off.  “They did cram an awful lot of work into a very compressed timeframe – but I don’t think that means we did bad work at all.”

“I don’t think we would have come out with anything different, that there’s any missing information,” Alf Brandt said.  “Like any government decision, there often come deadlines, you have to hustle to make them.  You draw on the best information – there’s never perfect information on any kind of decision.  At some point you have to make a cut.”

“I don’t see any missing, there’s a black hole of unknown that we could gotten in a year,” he said.

Elaine Roberts Musser added, “You can sit down and talk about these issues for the next twenty years, and never have all of your questions answered.  There’s no way – at some point you have to fish or cut bait, and this was point to fish or cut bait.  This is the opportunity that we have to do a project now when the construction costs are low and when Woodland is willing to be a partner.”

–David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. DT Businessman

    “The issue of the JPA has been a touchy issue, with critics claiming that by forming the JPA, the city has reduced its own autonomy and discretion.”

    This argument has never carried much weight for me. We have never been completely autonomous of Woodland. We are part of the same county, state and nation. We are mutually dependent. They do things that impact us, for good or for worse, and we do things that impact them. We share a labor pool, housing inventory, and health and social services, and much, much more. For instance, their development of Woodland Gateway provides shopping choices for our residents, but it also creates additional sales tax leakage. At least under the JPA, we have negotiated the parameters of the mutual dependency.

    -Michael Bisch

  2. Robb Davis

    I agree with Michael on this point. I have heard from opponents that Woodland and Davis have different political cultures. The implication being that a productive partnership on the water project is impossible. The differences are real, however, as I think of sustainability of our region–be it in the area of agriculture, water or transportation (to name some key ones), I would say that our need to cut through the differences is going to grow, not shrink. We are going to need to build relationships of trust and collaboration.

    Building “resilience” in the face of global climate change, higher energy costs and population pressures (none of which we are insulated from) requires investments in social capital within and among communities to deal with conflict and make hard decisions. The JPA presents challenges as any collaborative effort will. However, I believe it is a structure that helps build collaboration (in the face of inevitable conflicts that arise). We need that.

  3. Davis Progressive

    “This argument has never carried much weight for me.”

    but then again, which arguments against the project do carry weight for you? i do have concerns that an all-male, all-republican woodland council might not share my interests. it’s kind of like davis partnering with carmichael. should that at least be considered as a concern?

  4. rusty49

    Growth issue
    “i do have concerns that an all-male, all-republican woodland council might not share my interests. it’s kind of like davis partnering with carmichael. should that at least be considered as a concern?”

    LOL, should Woodland have concerns about dealing with the all white liberal Democrat city council of Davis?

  5. Davis Progressive

    after reading some comments this morning, i would say that woodland does:

    “Davis doesn’t respond well to reality”

    “It is better for all if the City of Davis not participate in this project. They have not been a reliable stable partner thereby costing my community time and money. They are to a point of being a detriment to the project and we must move on. I will personally canvas the City of Davis (as a Woodland resident) against their being part of this project.”

  6. Rifkin

    [quote]Davis will pay [u]30 percent more per gallon[/u] of water than Woodland pays. The Davis Water Advisory Committee did not endorse the project with this inequitable cost-sharing agreement. Why subsidize Woodland’s outsized development plans?
    [b]–S. Greenwald, M. Siegler, M. Bartolic, M. Harrington and P. Nieberg [/b] [/quote] Could someone please explain to me why there will be such a large cost differential for households in Davis and Woodland?

    The proponents of the water project have sidestepped this fact in all of their arguments. They never explain why that will be the case. I imagine there must be an explanation.

    In a rebuttal to Greenwald, et al., E.R. Musser, H. Thomson, R. Cholewinski, B. Schneider and S. Lovenburg make five bullet-pointed responses about “costs,” but fail completely to address the glaring disparity between Davis’s costs and Woodland’s.

    If you are going to ask me to pay 30% more than my neighbor is paying for the same water, don’t you owe me some explanation as to why I have to pay $13 for his $10?

    Post-script: I notice that all five members of the Davis City Council “wrote” the argument in favor of the water project. Can they do that without violating the Brown Act?

  7. Michael Harrington

    Rifkin: the 30% cost subsidy by Davis of Woodland is real. The JPA would be the water supply agency, and they would have two classes of customers: Woodland and Davis. Since the charges to each class would be disproportional, the City of Davis would have standing to sue the JPA under Prop 218.

    Or, the ratepayers of Davis would have standing to sue the JPA.

    In high school English class, I believe the instructor used the word “foreshadowing.” Remember this post.

    This plant and its rate structure will never be approved by the voters or the courts.

  8. Will Arnold

    The following is information I have received to address the “30%” claim:

    There is a perceived 30% differential (cost per million gallons, $/mgd) between Woodland’s share versus Davis’ share of the total project cost for the 30 mgd Davis-Woodland Water Supply Project (DWWSP). The 30% differential results from using Davis’s total estimated costs of the DWWSP of $113.77 million for 12 mgd of capacity, and comparing that to Woodland’s estimate of $131.27 million for 18 mgd of capacity. This results in Davis at $9.84M/mgd and Woodland at $7.29M/mgd.

    This is a poor metric for comparison in that it is overly simplistic. It does not take into account that many aspects of the DWWSP are not proportional to the allocation of capacity. For instance, many of the administrative costs, such as governance, water rights acquisition, right-of-way acquisition, engineering, contract management, environmental permitting and mitigation are split evenly to the project participants and are irrespective of the capacity allocation. Those cost that may vary to the allocation of capacity are split in accordance with a 40%/60% ratio to be consistent with the allocation of capacity 12mgd to Davis and 18 mgd to Woodland. (12mgd/30mgd = 40%, 18mgd/30mgd = 60%).

    There are costs that were not split 40%/60%. These are costs associated with the treated water pipelines conveyed from the water treatment plant to the respective borders of Davis and Woodland. One of the most significant unit cost differentials ($/foot of pipe) is due to the different type of construction for much of the Davis pipeline being proposed within roadways and includes costs for trenching, shoring, and tunneling and considerable pavement replacement. The Woodland alignment traverses more open country and the unit cost per foot of length is less. In the end, Woodland agreed to split 50%/50% the cost of the Davis treated water pipeline where the alignment is within the Woodland sphere of influence.

    And from a post made last month by Matt Williams:

    “The total estimated cost of the water production and water distribution project is $245.01 million.

    “Lets look at distribution costs first. $14.66 million is for upgrades to the existing “Davis Local” water distribution system and $16.38 million for upgrades to the existing “Woodland Local” water distribution system. Neither of those items are costs that should be subject to a proportional split. In each case those costs are paid 100% by the respective City. That brings the net project costs to $213.97 million.

    “Of that $213.97 million total, $31.51 is for treated water distribution infrastructure, which isn’t “cost of water” either If we set that treated water distribution infrastructure cost aside for a moment (for discussion later), the net project costs come down to $182.47 million which is the cost of water production that applies to anyone regardless of whether they live in Davis or live in Woodland.

    “Of the $182.47 million, $76.87 million goes to Davis and $105.61 million goes to Woodland, which is a 58-42 split. Of the 182.47 million, $142.29 is split 60-40, $11.42 million is split 50-50, and $28.76 million is slit at the old 54-46 split because it was either actually spent under those terms or reserved as Capital Contingency at those terms.

    “So the net bottom-line difference between 76.87-105.61 and 60-40 is a difference of $3.88 million, which is 2% of the $182.47 million total.”

    In conclusion, the “30%” claim is the most simplistic, hyperbolic way to describe a very complex issue, and to reduce the argument to those terms – as the Measure I opponents have done – insults our intelligence.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Don: you are welcome. The referendum you attacked in the fall 2011 has saved the City well over $150 million in reduced plant capital and financing costs. Send for a potted plant with a nice thank you note sometime, instead of being so rude and viscous?

    The current proposal is almost as bad, and there are huge additional savings available, for the next version that will happen when the voters knock down Measure I.

    Will: the 30% subsidy is real. If your Yes on I thought we were not being truthful, you could have filed a legal challenge to that number, but you did not. You guys have $100,000s of available campaign dollars sitting out there, from the same people and entities that funded the nasty hit piece against Sue Greenwald last year. Anyone of you could have filed that ballot language challenge on what is a very important issue, but you did not. Why, since Yes on I has unlimited money available from the special interests who have pushed this project for their own financial gain, was the legal challenge not filed? Because we would have won: the 30% is real, and is a huge legal and political problem for the JPA project. Yes on I correctly calculated that a legal challenge would hurt them, with no chance of a win in court.

    Dan and Rochelle were sent up to Woodland to fix that problem, and instead they got rolled by Bill Marbles and Paul Navazio and sent south to Davis with crumbs in a napkin to waive around.

  10. Davis Progressive

    “You’re using snarky Facebook comments as a guide to how we should proceed?”

    don, did I say that? come on, you of all people are better than that.

  11. Ryan Kelly

    [quote]Michael Harrington: “Davis would have standing to sue the JPA…Or, the ratepayers of Davis would have standing to sue the JPA.”[/quote]

    Translation: “We would have standing to sue ourselves, with a lawyer benefiting financially.”

  12. David M. Greenwald

    ” I notice that all five members of the Davis City Council “wrote” the argument in favor of the water project. Can they do that without violating the Brown Act?”

    As I understand it yes, because they already made the policy decision and the Brown act only applies to policy decisions.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    “Seems that conservation (12 vs 18) doesn’t pay! Or does!! “

    Depends on how you look at it. In absolute terms, we are paying less. In terms of the variable portions of the project, we are paying about 42% of the costs. In terms of the fixed costs, that’s the only part where we are paying more than the 40-60 split and part of that is the pipeline and the fact that Davis is further from the intake. Without the conservation, we would be paying even more in addition to the added cost of the pipeline.

  14. pbradyus

    What is most disturbing is the high cost and huge rate increases proposed.
    Dunning last Sunday did an analysis assuming 10ccf/mo in the winter and 20 ccf/mo in the 6 summer months. The present water cost he calculates is 34.40/mo. But by 1/1/18 this would rise to 118.74/mo, he shows, and I checked his numbers, as I understand the rate structure. This is a factor of about 3.5!!! This is a huge increase and is not justified by the cost of the new facility. I called the Fidelity bond dept. and we worked out the interest and principal cost per year for a $120 million bond to be about $8 million a year. The Conaway water averages about $1.7/yr. So the total is near $10 million/yr. Present water revenues are near $12 million/yr, so a rate increase close to a factor of 2 is all that is needed to pay the bond for the new facility. In addition, there will be several million in savings in the present system with the planned shut-down of some intermediate wells – those high in Se and nitrates, and with the reduced pumping of all wells. How can there be this much pork and such unfairness in these proposed rates! For large lots such as in Willowbank water costs will be around $300/mo – maybe more!

  15. Don Shor

    [i]Don: you are welcome. The referendum you attacked in the fall 2011 has saved the City well over $150 million in reduced plant capital and financing costs. Send for a potted plant with a nice thank you note sometime, instead of being so rude and viscous? [/i]

    The referendum petition now has us two years behind on collecting revenues for a water project that is going to happen one way or another. The reduced capacity will lead to poorer water quality. There are trade-offs. Nearly everyone (possibly you excepted) knows that we are going to build some sort of surface water project at some point. So you have just delayed the process and put off paying for it. You are pushing costs to the next generation.
    Assuming you meant vicious instead of viscous, I note that in your very next paragraph you resumed your pattern of personal attacks and innuendo. This has been your MO from the start.

  16. Michael Harrington

    Let me see: on an emergency footing, I spent $9,000 of my own money (not tax deductible, BTW) on the signature gathering for the 2011 referendum, that saved the ratepayers over $150 MILLION in project costs and financing? Don is trashing me for doing that?

    What if some water rates lawyer filed a case, and spent $9,000 in attorneys fees, and the court ordered the City to pay fees after the ratepayer prevailed, and the city had to pay the $9K? But the savings to the ratepayers was another $100 MILLION?

    Don and Ryan are going to cry foul over the city paying $9,000 for attorneys fees??

    Frankly, the city council would save ratepayer money if the CC paid an independent law firm to oversee what stafff is doing. Pay the lawyer a dollar, and save $100. That makes common sense to me. The CC sure as heck is not minding the store for ratepayers.

  17. Don Shor

    [i]Frankly, the city council would save ratepayer money if the CC paid an independent law firm to oversee what stafff is doing. [/i]

    Getting a second opinion might not be a bad idea. I have suggested before that the JPA and/or the city join the Association of California Water Agencies, since they monitor legal affairs and legislation. The rate fairness issue is something numerous water agencies are facing, I’m sure.

  18. Herman

    “Once the damage is done, you can’t undo it. Once the subsidence happens, you can’t go back.”

    And yes, once we are locked into the JPA, should Woodland have problems paying its share, the damage is done. Can anyone tell me what would happen in this eventuality? Having read the JPA, I see no way that Davis could escape. And of course municipal bankruptcies never occur in this country and especially in California do they??? And, can someone from Woodland or elsewhere tell me why Moody’s is presently contemplating downgrading Woodland’s bond rating, along with several other California cities? What structural economic factors are causing them to take a close look at Woodland with a view to a downgrade? And we all know that it takes a lot for Moody’s to downgrade anyone given their record during the financial crisis beginning 2008.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    “should Woodland have problems paying its share, the damage is done. Can anyone tell me what would happen in this eventuality?”

    What makes you believe that is going to happen? Woodland has already approved its Prop 218. The lenders are not going to lend if they cannot show the ability to finance the project. What leads you to believe this will be a problem/

  20. Herman

    David, off the top of my head the following California cities have gone bankrupt relatively recently: Vallejo, Mammoth Lakes, San Bernardino, and Stockton. Presumably in each instance there were lenders who did not get their money back right? So lenders and rating agencies not uncommonly make an over rosy estimate of a city’s ability to pay its debts, and so can ratings agencies like Moody’s. And my specific question still stands: Can anyone tell me why Moody’s is contemplating a downgrade of Woodland’s bond rating? For one of many pieces on municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. go to: The story is entitled “Three California Cities Bankrupt. ‘This is the tip of the Iceberg,’ says Fmr. Statesman.”

  21. Michael Harrington

    PBradyUS: thanks for the calculations. I have known for some time that the upcoming rates are way higher than what is needed for the project itself, so nice to see the confirmation.

    That extra money is one huge slush fund. Why do they need it? No one knows, and staff and the CC are not telling. They generally describe some uses, but nothing concrete that the public can rely upon.

    Has water staff been taking sewer money to pay for the Saylor-JPA dream project?

    I’m going to put an audit requirement into the public utilities initiative that we have been working on. “Trust but verify.” So far, there has been no outside audit or verification of what these people are doing with our ratepayer money. Time to audit!

  22. Michael Harrington

    Don and Ryan: now, being good business people you are, it just beats the heck out of me why the two of you fight so hard to allow staff and electeds to take and recklessly spend our ratepayer money. My $9K personal money saved well over $150 Million of YOUR money, yet you trash me over and over.

    Well, I think the initiative will be something you can both get behind when you see it. I know the both of you will love the audit requirement …

  23. Michael Harrington

    Herman: please post or link the document that states Woodland is looking at higher financing costs?

    Of course they are facing the rath of the bonding companies: Davis is on the verge of pulling out of the current deal, and that is going to screw up Woodland’s financing.

    Also, Woodland’s water rate structure violates Prop 218’s proportionality requirement. For the cost of the legal fee to file the case, anyone who is a ratepayer in Woodland can take down their income stream for those bonds. (Woodland CC Member Bill Marbles: are you reading this? You and your buddies came to our CC meeting and verbally slapped around our CC, then you screwed around with Davis’s political process in order to get our money to fund your rampant urban sprawl dreams; I asked you politely not to rush our planning, but you did it anyway.)

    Finally, the fiscal condition of Woodland’s ratepayers and commercial sector is terrible. Go drive along Main Street: it’s a disaster with a high proportion of vacancies and for rent signs.

    The chances are -100% that Woodland will build this project without Davis participation; Woodland simply cannot afford it.

    ERM and Don Shor’s mantra of “Davis has to act NOW because the Woodland train is leaving the station” is sheer poppycock. Woodland lacks the cash to put diesel fuel in the train.

  24. Herman

    Indeed, on the Woodland Bond Issue, Moody’s DID downgrade Woodland’s bond rating on Jan. 10. How terribly politically incorrect of them, David!
    In explaining the downgrade from A3 to A2, it was reported by Global Credit Research:


    “The A2 rating for the 2002 Lease Revenue Bonds reflects the continued external support of deb service payments from the Sewer Development Fund and Sewer Enterprise Fund. The A3 rating for the 2005 lease revenue bonds reflects diminished external support of debt service burden payments from fire and park facilities fees, resulting in a moderately elevated General Fund burden. The rating also incorporate the city’s below average assessed (AV) and resident; continued AV contraction; demonstrated management of fiscal challenges despite ongoing pressures relating to fixed-cost budget constraints and long term liabilities; and lagging economic recovery.


    Exposure to weak local economy

    Ongoing financial imbalances in certain enterprise and government funds

    Pressures relating to other post employment benefits (OPEB) and pension liabilities.”

  25. Michael Harrington

    ERM and Don: is this the same city you all have been representing to seniors as a good strong reliable partner that is going to leave us behind if we don’t give them our ratepayer money right now? Sure, sure. And let me sell you some nice land located five miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge

    How dare the Yes on I group try to sell us down the river in an irrevocable patnership with a fiscally drowning city ?

  26. Don Shor

    Mike: notwithstanding the fact that I have not represented anything about the water project or Woodland to any seniors anywhere at any time, I will let you now explain why Woodland’s bond rating would have any effect on its ability to fund the water project. Give it a try. It’s ratepayer funded.

    Also, no partnership is ever irrevocable. You know that. Did you know that Dixon just ended a JPA? By a simple majority vote of the Dixon city council? Of course the JPA partnership agreement describes how that process would play out, if it came to that, and for very good reason it is not easy nor without consequence. But if Davis decides to exit the JPA, it can be done.

  27. DT Businessman

    I’m still flumoxed by Davis rules. Somebody please explain to me how an individual agrees to serve on a committee to advise the city council on a matter of paramount importance to the community, only to turn around and individually make public statements absolutely at odds with the advice given to the council. How does that work? If the committe agrees with my position, great! If it doesn’t, so what? What’s the point of having the committee in the first place?

    -Michael Bisch

  28. Michael Harrington

    Don: I’m not a bond expert, but reading the Moody’s Report, the downgrade was based on the overall deteriorating financial condition of the city

    But I said last year: woodland is way overextended and its population is getting poorer, and business collapses are way up and its bad planning is a large cause of the current situation

    Those sewer bonds at issue in the Moody’s report were issued just before woodlands rampant sprawl collapsed, such as Spring Lake housing development. I’m sure the revenue stream did not grow as forecast because the new housing was not built out

    Bill Marbles growth policies imploded, and the water project is basically a Davis bailout for Woodland

    Woodland has a long way down before it gets better. Check out the numerous vacant storefronts

  29. Don Shor

    MIke, you and I have found an area of agreement: Woodland has terrible urban planning policies!

    However, none of that, IMO, affects their ability to pay for the water project because it is ratepayer financed. I don’t see any reasonable way you can describe it as a Davis bailout of Woodland. The cities share some overhead, but basically each pays its own way for their part of the project. Read the joint powers agreement in more detail. You will find provisions for who is responsible even in the worst case scenario. The bond downgrade may not be great news for the city of Woodland, but the water project is not part of their city budget.
    I’m sure I’m oversimplifying this. Somebody else should probably explain it in more detail. Bottom line, though: they’re separate pots of money.

  30. DT Businessman

    David, my response is:

    1)The WAC is an advisory body, not a legislative body. What’s the advice worth if they then take contrary public positions? In essence, they are working real hard to negate 16 months work and significant expense.

    2)The whole point of the exercise is to break through partisanship by creating an independent body.

    3)The spirit of the Commission Handbook guidelines under which city commissions and taskforces operate.

    4)Common sense. Commissions cannot operate effectively unless the individual members subordinate ego for the collective good.

    -Michael Bisch

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