Riverside County LAFCO conveys FPUD/Rainbow reorganization to San Diego LAFCO

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The potential reorganization in which the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District would detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and become part of the Eastern Municipal Water District will require approval from San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission, but Riverside County’s LAFCO has agreed to let the process be conducted entirely by San Diego County’s LAFCO.

The Riverside County LAFCO board met Sept. 26 and unanimously approved delegating the entire process to San Diego County’s LAFCO staff and board. San Diego County’s LAFCO has a memorandum of understanding with Riverside County LAFCO on its Oct. 7 agenda. Each county LAFCO handles jurisdictional boundary changes including incorporations, annexations, consolidations and detachments within that county.

“Everything would be consolidated to a single action in San Diego,” FPUD general manager Jack Bebee said. “Riverside County would basically delegate all their authority to San Diego County.”

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the County Water Authority began delivering water to San Diego County in 1947. MWD’s San Diego Aqueduct conveys water to a delivery point 6 miles south of the Riverside County line. That delivery point allowed MWD and the CWA to provide equal contributions to connect from MWD’s Colorado River Aqueduct to the San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside. The CWA northern boundary is the county line.

All but one of FPUD’s connections are from MWD pipelines rather than from CWA pipelines. The Rainbow Municipal Water District was formed in 1953 to serve the Bonsall Heights Water District, which remained a separate retail agency until it was dissolved in 1975, and the Vallecitos, Cononita, Morro, San Luis Rey Heights and Yucca mutual water companies and four of Rainbow’s eight connections are to the MWD portion of the pipeline.

The CWA’s rates are derived from several factors. The supply rate is a melded rate which melds the cost of water delivered from MWD, water purchased from the Imperial Irrigation District under the Quantification Settlement Agreement and water produced by the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Carlsbad. The CWA also has transportation, storage and customer service charges along with fees and charges for fixed expenditures which are incurred even when water use is reduced. This creates the possibility that FPUD and Rainbow can reduce their cost of purchasing water – and thus their rates – by detaching from the CWA and becoming part of another MWD member agency.

The Eastern Municipal Water District is a member of MWD and purchases imported water directly from MWD. The Western Municipal Water District is also a member of MWD and provides retail water sales of MWD supply to the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District as well as to the Rancho California Water District. If FPUD and Rainbow detach from the CWA and join Eastern their status would be similar to that of the two water districts which obtain MWD water from Western. The Eastern Municipal Water District currently covers 555 square miles and includes Hemet, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Romoland, San Jacinto, Temecula and Winchester. The district has more than 140,000 water customers.

FPUD, Rainbow and Eastern have been working on a Memorandum of Understanding which would detail service and expense obligations if FPUD and Rainbow detach from the CWA and join Eastern. FPUD and Rainbow would be responsible for all LAFCO fees.

“We’re just trying to figure out what the process is going to look like,” Bebee said. “Both LAFCO executive officers are working together.”

A municipal service review and a sphere of influence update will be necessary before any jurisdictional change. A municipal service review evaluates services and anticipated needs, and a sphere of influence study determines the boundaries best served by a particular agency. San Diego County’s LAFCO will handle the municipal service review and sphere of influence update as well as the detachment and annexation.

FPUD and Rainbow voters would also need to approve the reorganization. The transition process is targeting the November 2020 election for that public vote.

“It’s going to be a long process, and we’re kind of just at the beginning,” Bebee said.