Wednesday Aug 27 2008
Help Colfax: Use water revenues for water projects
By: Ben Mavy
As a resident of Colfax how would you like a solution to the sewer problem that doesn’t involve astronomic tax/fee increases? With concerted effort and lobbying on the part of community members, a final solution does not have to be pie in the sky. A few local community leaders and concerned citizens have found what I believe should be part of the solution. In 1962 Placer County voters overwhelmingly supported the financing of construction for a series of reservoirs, hydroelectric power plants and tunnels known as the Middle Fork Project. PG&E is currently reaping most of the profit from power sales, but the project must be re-licensed soon. A new arrangement will allow Placer County and the Placer County Water Agency to share in annual revenues of $20 million to $95 million. The combined annual budgets of PCWA and the county currently fall far short of $600 million, which means these new funds could eventually account for 20 percent of the combined budgets! This money is a legacy of our forbears and a large part of that legacy is set to be squandered. The current proposal for the new revenues calls for the water agency and the county to split the revenues in half, and send the money to their respective general funds. We all know that if this money makes it to the general fund there will be no shortage of special interest groups or good causes vying for a piece of the new slush fund for politicians. I call the most logical use of these funds “Water Revenues for Water Projects.” Rather than split the money 50/50 for the two general funds as PCWA and the county have proposed, a growing contingent of Placer County residents are advocating that 100 percent of the funds be dedicated to funding water, water quality and energy infrastructure projects. “Water quality” is not code! If this proposal is successful, in addition to the funds being used for water infrastructure for homes and fire hydrants, the funds would be allocated to wastewater treatment, and various watershed protection activities. What this could mean for Colfax is an affordable solution for connecting to a regional wastewater treatment plant. Entrenched politicians are fighting this proposal under every guise imaginable. They even claim the law requires them to split the revenues a certain way, a disingenuous assertion at best. The decision-making body for the funds consists of four board members, comprised of two PCWA directors, and two Placer County Supervisors. The decision on how to initially divide the funds will be made by these four politicians. The law dictates that Placer County consent to the expenditure of all proceeds from the Middle Fork Project. The current crop of politicians figured consent means splitting the money 50/50, hoping no one would notice. While current county supervisors and PCWA directors cannot control the budgetary decisions of future boards, they can act now to ensure the Middle Fork revenues never reach the general funds. If this money is not to be wasted in the general fund, we need to become engaged and quickly! If we wait for re-licensing it will be too late. Tell your neighbors, friends and family in all parts of the county to insist that PCWA and the county dedicate the funds now. We have a chance to leave a legacy for our kids and help fix a major problem for our city. Let’s not lose this opportunity to fix our city. -- Ben Mavy is a Colfax business owner and a candidate for the Placer County Water Agency Board.