Catalina Island
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Reported on:
March 30, 2017 - 7:51am

Articles by Charles M. Kelly

You can stop worrying about whether you’ve exceeded your water allotment. Southern California Edison announced to the City Council this week that, effective immediately, Stage 3 rationing will revert to Stage 1 conservation. Islanders will still have to save water, but Stage 1 restrictions will be similar to those facing mainland water users.

In related news, Edison’s desalination expert is scheduled to give a presentation to the Avalon City Council on March 21. The presentation has been delayed several times since it was first expected in December.

Southern California Edison is holding off sending new water allotment letters to Islanders until the company knows the impact of last Friday’s rain on the Middle Ranch Reservoir. Two weeks ago, the company announced that water rationing would be reduced to 25 percent. According to Edison, the new rationing will be based on Stage 3 approved variances, or Stage 2 variances if that doesn’t apply or on the baseline water use if Stage 2 variances don’t apply.

The audience applauded Tuesday night when a Southern California Edison representative told the City Council that Avalon water rationing would be “adjusted” down to 25 percent. Most Avalon residents, more than 90 percent, according to an Edison statement, will see their water limits reduced. The change officially went into effect Tuesday.

Some Islanders will still have to save 50 percent of their baseline water use: residents of the West End, the Isthmus, White’s Landing, Tonyon, the Airport-in-the-Sky, Little Harbor, Blackjack and Empire Landing.

As of Friday, Jan. 20, the water level at Middle Ranch reservoir measured 137 acre feet.

The water level was 133 acre feet when it was last measured on Jan. 12. That was a 2 acre foot increase from the Jan. 5 measurement.  

An informal online Catalina Islander survey found many residents concerned about housing, water and land use. The Islander also emailed City officials, who expressed concerns about water, housing and infrastructure.

The Islander asked residents, “What are the challenges and opportunities facing Avalon in the year ahead?”

The survey was taken in late December and early January, before the recent start of rainy weather.

The public’s perspective

Avalon’s city manager and city attorney are expected to discuss fresh water issues today with state Public Utilities Commission officials in San Francisco. Southern California Edison and the city differ on several issues, such as how much water storage is needed. City staff also believes the local drought has been aggravated by rationing rules that are tied to the Middle Ranch Reservoir and predate the desalination plant.

This week the City Council unanimously directed the city manager to informally ask the state Public Utilities Commission for help with getting more cooperation from Southern California Edison on water storage and rationing.

The two entities part ways on the details of how to improve water storage and delivery.

For example, Avalon officials want Edison to build a 2 million gallon storage tank. Edison officials want to wait for the results of a desalination expert’s study, expected next month, before deciding on the size and location of the tank.

This week Avalon City Manager Dave Jinkens emailed Southern California Edison’s corporate offices to ask the utility company to provide water rationing waivers to businesses such as hotels. Edison had not replied by the Islander’s deadline.

The council also directed staff to provide non-drinking water in the city’s water trailer and give that water to residents.

Avalon staff is expected to bring the City Council specific proposals and costs for relieving drought conditions here, probably on Oct. 18, according to City Manager David Jinkens. Staff is expected to propose four specific actions.

The council discussed several possible options this week.

Southern California Edison recently reached a settlement to pay the federal government a bit more than $39,000 for improper storage of hazardous waste on Catalina. According to a statement announcing the settlement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that SCE has since corrected all of issues that led to the penalty.