Wanted: water solutions for Catalina

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There are many fine people who work at SCE and provide electric, gas and water services to Avalon. No one doubts this fact. We understand that operations in Avalon and Catalina Island are directed from Southern California Edison corporate offices on the mainland.

There are a number of outstanding issues that need to be positively addressed in order to ensure that Avalon has a year-round and sustainable fresh water supply. Only SCE corporate officials can provide these answers, and City officials are persevering to get answers for the City Council and community.

There are many fine people who work at SCE and provide electric, gas and water services to Avalon. No one doubts this fact. We understand that operations in Avalon and Catalina Island are directed from Southern California Edison corporate offices on the mainland.

There are a number of outstanding issues that need to be positively addressed in order to ensure that Avalon has a year-round and sustainable fresh water supply. Only SCE corporate officials can provide these answers, and City officials are persevering to get answers for the City Council and community.

1. SCE needs to develop, in consultation with the City of Avalon, a fresh water master plan that will describe their strategy, costs, and timelines for water system operations over the next 20 years. Knowing what they have planned helps City officials and the people know what they can expect and can help in developing support for grants that they and the City might jointly seek;

2. SCE has been asked by the City Council to provide it with a specific plan for developing adequate water storage and the construction of new salt water intake wells. The Council was told that the report would be ready in December and that date has now been revised by them to March. We need the answer to evaluate if the steps will meet Avalon’s needs;

3. The City Council requested that SCE seek a modification of its water tariff to tie drought designation in Avalon to the capacity available to fresh water provided by two desalinization units, not to inland reservoir levels. The existing tariff is outdated and antiquated;

4. The City has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to host a meeting between the City and SCE officials to encourage answers to outstanding questions and arrive at support for fresh water system improvements and grants. The CPUC has agreed to host such a meeting, but we have not heard back from SCE officials;

5. Over the last several weeks, the City Attorney has requested information about the daily output of the two existing desalinization units in Avalon.  His requests have not been honored for reasons that are not clear to us. A California Public Records Request has been made for this information, because of its importance to ensure that SCE is meeting the terms of the agreement between the city and SCE that provided $500,000 in City funds for desal #2. LA County too has pledged $500,000 toward the cost of desal #2 and by agreement with the City will not allow us to release this additional funding until this information is made available to us by SCE.

6. The City supports efforts to strengthen the water system on all parts of the Island and places priority for improvements and dollars spent on addressing Avalon’s needs first. SCE ratepayers in Avalon do not want to pay for costly improvements elsewhere on the Island that do not meet Avalon’s needs.

City staff will resume working with SCE grant staff when we know SCE’s plans and priorities for achieving a sustainable supply of fresh water to Avalon. City staff members are to remain focused on grants and solutions that benefits Avalon residents first, the people and businesses that pay their salaries.

Once we are told SCE’s action plan for water sustainability and it is agreed upon by the City Council, City officials will eagerly support requests for grant funding. We are anxious to do so, and we look forward to it.

David Jinkens is the city manager of Avalon.

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