Palo Verde Irrigation District's (PVID) Nov. 19 Board of Trustees meeting brought a significant increase in the State Water Resource Control Board's annual fee to the forefront of discussion.
The $13,106.48 fee increase will see the previous year's $79,499.81 sum jump to the morning's approved $92,606.29.
"I think when these first started, (the fees) were like $27(,000) or $28,000. And our fear, of course, would be that they would increase – and that's exactly what's happened. We were involved in litigation, at very little cost to the district. We rode the coattails of folks who had bigger oars in the water on this issue and that litigation was not successful," commented PVID Attorney Dave Saunders to the board.
As noted by Saunders, the billing system in question was to backfill the cost of the water rights department at the state water board – to, essentially, fully fund the department by the users of the system, which includes PVID.
"Since we have water permits from the state board – and many agencies do, up and down the state – they basically take the cost of that department, divide it by the ratio of how large your permit is and so forth, and that's the cost that each party pays. And that system, unfortunately, has been approved by the court," stated Saunders.
PVID trustee Bart Fisher noted: "The larger question (that) sort of alludes to is that we have federal water, off of a federal stream. And this is a (state) water right fee – our water right is embodied in a grant from the Bureau of Reclamation."
Described as an "expensive insurance policy," the $92,606.29 matter is considered by some stakeholders as paying a state fee for a state permit – that the agency is not using – while in possession of a federally contracted right to tap into the Colorado River.
"If we don't push back a little bit, the state (fee) will keep going up," noted PVID Board Vice President Jack Seiler.
In order to avoid a 10 percent penalty that would materialize on Dec. 9, the board voted to approve payment to the State Water Resource Control Board, with an intent to explore the matter further.