Peninsula Water Authority Redefines Itself
March 6, 2013
When six Monterey Peninsula mayors hatched the idea of a new water agency in early 2012, the goal was to represent the constituents ultimately footing the nine-figure bill on a regional seawater desalination project.
What they didn't figure in: the one-third of California American Water's Monterey District ratepayers who live in the unincorporated county. The original joint-powers agreement specifically states that the authority's purpose is to administer water projects in a manner "directly accountable to the cities' water users."
The County Board of Supervisors voted in September to join the authority. But when an outside attorney questioned the legality of that move, County Counsel Charles McKee asked the state attorney general for advice: Would adding a county supervisor—or the heads of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and Monterey County Water Resources Agency—to the authority board be problematic?
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Susan Duncan Lee replied Dec. 17: "We lack sufficient information at this point to reach a firm conclusion as to your question." Which is lawyerspeak for "dunno."
But, she added, the question of the county supervisor's participation can be cleared up easily if the original JPA agreement is revised, permitting it to represent both urban and rural water users. "In that case, no conflict may arise," Duncan Lee wrote.
In January, the water authority board voted to amend the JPA to let the county be a member. And on Feb. 14—yes, the mayors left their honeys alone at prime-time Valentine's Day dinner hours for this—the authority board approved the change in language.
"Because the MPRWA was formed to provide a unified voice from the jurisdictions that are directly accountable to the public that will receive water from [Cal Am], the MPRWA has deemed it appropriate to add the county as a member," the Feb. 14 staff report states.
The amendment now heads to the Peninsula cities and the Board of Supervisors for approval.