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Water district candidates differ on priorities Water district candidates differ on priorities (Visit Count : 2390)


Ahead of the Nov. 4 election, The Desert Sun provided a questionnaire to the candidates in order to provide the public with a summary of where they stand on water issues. Candidates were given 50 words per answer.

The candidates are competing in three divisions: in Division 1, the candidates include Steve Grasha and Patrick O’Dowd; in Division 3, Art Valdez is running against incumbent John Powell, Jr.; and in Division 5, Cástulo Estrada and Russell Kitahara are challenging incumbent Debi Livesay.

Question: Why have you decided to run for the board of the Coachella Valley Water District?

Cástulo Estrada (occupation: utilities engineering intern for the city of Coachella) The Eastern Coachella Valley has always been home to me, my grandparents, my parents, my siblings, and friends. Caring for this region, its people, and its water and wastewater comes natural to me and I plan to do what I can to promote social equity in our division through CVWD.

Steve Grasha (occupation: president of TrueFog, USA, Industrial Humidification) My neighborhood in Division #1, representing Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage, is supplied by a district well that far exceeds the state’s legal limit for chromium-6. This cancer causing mineral affects nearly half of all households in the district. I felt an obligation to step in and fix it.

Russell Kitahara, former CVWD board member (occupation: business manager for family trust) As a former director I participated in bringing more State Water Project entitlement and securing our Colorado River water for the future. This is a desert. Without imported water our communities would cease to exist. I would like to work with the team that assures our residents a secure water future.

Debi Livesay, incumbent (occupation: retired) I have been on the board for the last 4 years. … During my tenure on the board we were able to secure some $17 million for the east valley for the infrastructure of the area. One of my main goals is to get my Division 5 more funds for infrastructure.

Patrick O’Dowd (occupation: administrator of The Garden Fellowship in Bermuda Dunes) With decades-long experience working with virtually every aspect of water use and management, I’m ready to serve CVWD Division 1 as director. Coupled with my education, civic involvement (including Indio Water Authority commissioner) and community reputation, I represent the very best candidate for the job, and will serve with integrity.

John Powell, incumbent (occupation: president and CEO of Peter Rabbit Farms) I am a third generation owner/operator of a family farm founded in 1950, when CVWD began delivering Colorado River water. Good water planning ensures the farm will be here for my children and future generations. My interest in water supply sustainability is aligned with the interests of the entire Coachella Valley.

Art Valdez (occupation: retired) I’m a long-term resident of the Coachella Valley and would be privileged to represent 90-93% of the residents who currently finance a good part of the district.

Question: What would your top priorities be if elected?

Cástulo Estrada: Our division is primarily made up of disadvantaged communities. My priority is to bring clean, safe and reliable drinking water funds offered through the state water bond to our division. Relatedly, I will promote more and better infrastructure that address water and wastewater deficiencies through capital improvement project programs.

Steve Grasha: Elimination of chromium-6 from our entire domestic water delivery system. Complete transparency of water usage data. Installation of certified and calibrated flow meters on all wells, both public and private. A 30 percent reduction in turf from all district customers including the resort industry.

Russell Kitahara: My top priority would be to maintain or increase the water available to our community. Today the Southwest is in a severe water shortage. I would like to follow in the footsteps of previous directors representing our area in cooperation with the state and nation, assuring a plentiful supply even in severe times.

Debi Livesay: My top priorities remain the same as they were 4 years ago. Infrastructure and the Salton Sea. Solving the issues of chromium-6 has now made its way into priorities for the entire valley, as well as changing HOAs and golf courses over to reuse water for outdoor use.

Patrick O’Dowd: Safe, clean affordable, reliable water for generations to come. Safe through constant testing and assurance. Clean water is good tasting water — free of contaminants which negatively impact water quality. Affordable by using best practices in district operations. Reliable through vigorously defending and protecting existing and acquiring supplemental water rights.

John Powell: I will continue to protect our imported water from outsiders that wish to take it from us. The historic drought creates mounting pressure to take water rights away from our valley. I will protect the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) and the 2007 Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages.

Art Valdez: Continue to secure our access to water rights, quality with safety, while maintaining reasonable rates and good customer service.

Question: Which of the water district’s current policies, if any, would you work to change?

Cástulo Estrada: a) I want to increase public participation by Division 5 residents during general meetings, by changing the meetings to more accessible times and ensuring adequate Spanish-language access. b) I want district employees to receive full recognition and compensation for their continual hard work and dedication to the ratepayers.

Steve Grasha: We must begin water exchanges with the State Water Project and return to the district policy of recharging the Whitewater facility at 100 percent capacity to ensure our groundwater is protected and sustained. Recharging only at the Levy facility is shortchanging water users in the west valley.

Russell Kitahara: The policies currently in place are a product of today’s political climate and environmental issues. Policy changes would have to reflect the best interests of our area. As a director I would try to create policy that brings efficiency and a level field of opportunity for those who use water.

Debi Livesay: I think most of the district’s policies are fair and reasonable. With the recent drought initiatives that have to be imposed, we are addressing those issues as we go forward. Also, from a state level … under-sink RO (reverse osmosis) systems need to be allowed … for a much longer period of time than the 2-3 years as mandated currently.

Patrick O’Dowd: Canal water standby charges are designed to ensure that all system beneficiaries participate in maintenance cost. Current charges should be evaluated to ensure that they reflect the aggregate cost of maintaining the system, not a penalty for non-use, which could inadvertently promote non-productive consumption and be a disincentive to conservation.

John Powell: I favor funding CVWD’s CalPERS obligations to 80%, and so we don’t burden future generations with a large unfunded liability. I also favor building Phase III of the Mid-Valley Pipeline so we can provide non-potable water to more golf courses, allowing them to turn off their wells to protect the aquifer.

Art Valdez: I’m unaware of any current policy issues or conflicts.

Question: What do you see as the best approaches for combating declines in groundwater levels?

Cástulo Estrada: CVWD must continue its role as a member agency of the Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group, a group established with other local water agencies under California’s Department of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management program. The group aims to reduce regional water demand and increase water supply through collaboration.

Steve Grasha: When elected I will call for an immediate reduction of turf from all customers of at-least 30 percent, including the resort industry. The aquifer cannot continue to sustain our demand of water usage limitlessly. We have been over drafting for nearly a century and it must stop.

Russell Kitahara: Currently the Coachella Valley Water District is a leader in mitigating overdraft of our groundwater through recharge and conservation. Thoughtful area water use, distribution, and acquiring more water are the keys to combating groundwater declines.

Debi Livesay: Continued recharge, conservation in home and outdoors, turf conversions, mandatory desert landscaping, recycled water to all golf courses and HOAs for outside use. Other than that, the county will have to stop building and development. No one wants that to happen.

Patrick O’Dowd: Improving efficiency and encouraging conservation through education, incentives, research and development will help. In addition, current aquifer recharge projects seem to be proving successful in raising groundwater levels. Care should be exercised, however, to ensure that groundwater quality is not negatively impacted in any material respect by recharge efforts.

John Powell: Groundwater levels are now increasing in many parts of the valley because of direct recharge, increased use of recycled and Colorado River water, and conservation. These strategies of the Water Management Plan are working and we must stay the course. Our supply of Colorado River water is increasing every year.

Art Valdez: 1) Where not implemented, provide or improve “monitoring” of our ponds or invest and install additional ponds to ensure current and future levels. 2) Set a goal to transition every golf course to recycled water.

Question: What sorts of solutions would you favor for bringing the water system into compliance with the state’s new drinking water standard for chromium-6?

Cástulo Estrada: One-third of CVWD’s wells exceed the new chromium-6 maximum contaminant level. CVWD has a consultant team that has completed a Source of Supply/Treatment Study and evaluated 7 scenarios to determine the best option to achieve compliance based on significant advantages to the district. I’ve reviewed the study and support the recommendation.

Steve Grasha: I support the CVWD’s ongoing ion-exchange study to reduce levels of chromium-6 in our domestic water supply. We must complete these studies and immediately move forward with system-wide treatment to protect our customers’ health and ensure our valley’s economic viability as well.

Russell Kitahara: Chromium-6 standard is an arbitrary figure set by politicians. Water districts would be at an extreme legal disadvantage if sued for noncompliance. … Many current solutions would bankrupt any water agency by raising the water rates beyond affordability. Regardless, the water district should work towards compliance or face legal peril.

Debi Livesay: We have been addressing these issues in study sessions. There are many ways of achieving chromium-6 standards and none of them are going to be cheap. Possibilities are RO on massive scales, RO with blended water, and existing water blended with canal water. We need to see what the cost of each of these are.

Patrick O’Dowd: Solving this complex problem will cost the district and its water users many millions of dollars. Each of the strategies proposed has merit, and discerning leadership should select the technology — blending, ion-exchange or surface water treatment, as applied at the well or in clusters — which best serves District customers.

John Powell: I am committed to providing safe drinking water to CVWD customers. Solutions include both ion-exchange treatment of groundwater, and filtration of Colorado River water. This will bring Cr6 levels to within the state mandate, will diversify the water supply and will reduce reliance on groundwater per our Water Management Plan.

Art Valdez: Primarily the CVWD has a good record and has always maintained compliance with state standards. Therefore, I’m confident the study due January 2015 will allow the best approach in meeting the new standards. Further, that CVWD and the public should seriously support an infrastructure investment and management plan.

To read their answers to more questions, visit DesertSun.com


Date: 10/14/2014
Source : The desert sun