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NID board raises water rates

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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The Nevada Irrigation District voted to raise water rates Wednesday, but the cost impact will depend on usage. For the majority of residential users, the bills will go up $1.47 a month. But many agricultural raw-water users will see much higher hikes. For example, the cost for 20 miner's inches rises 14.5 percent ” from $3,131.71 to $3,586.60, according to Marie Owens, NID finance manager. Rates won't change for raw-water customers who take 1.5 to 12 miner's inches. But those who use less than 1.5 and more than 12 miner's inches can expect to pay more. Each miner's inch is the amount of water flow through a one-inch aperture or about 11.25 gallons per minute in California, per Web site www.stream.fs.fed.us/ As a result of the overhaul of the rate structure, smaller and larger customers will see larger increases to make up for those already paying their disproportionate share, Owens said. It became evident that certain classes of customers within a rate category ” raw or treated ” were subsidizing other customers. What we are trying to accomplish is fairness and equity across the board to all rate payers. A public hearing on the rate hike, which goes into effect March 1, attracted approximately 15 customers who spoke out against the increase. After hearing the comments, the board, which had considered approving yearly hikes through 2012, decided to stick to a one-year increase, with new notices going out in the fall for next year, Owens said. Jack Allen, a cattle rancher in Lincoln, was one of those who spoke out against the rate hike during the meeting. Allen, who uses 50 miner's inches of water a year, will see his bill go up nearly $1,200. That includes a $296.80 newly imposed surcharge for 2008, he said. The biggest impact is another rise in the cost of doing business in Placer County and California, Allen said. Here's another $1,200 out of my pocket with no way to recoup it. The surcharge ups his increase to 15.5 percent and is something that wasn't adequately explained, he said. They couldn't come up with anything outside of the cost of living, he said. ˜There's really no reason for it. It's just another fee and there's nothing we can do about it. If they stick with this schedule, by 2012 we won't be able to buy water. The rate hike was configured based on a study by financial consultant Alex Handlers with Bartle Wells Associates in Berkeley, who advised that even with the rate increase, NID water rates would remain among the lowest in the region and well below the statewide average, according to a NID press release. As part of the new rate structure, NID is implementing a fixed monthly minimum water use charge based on meter size ratio and will begin to phase out a 25 percent surcharge to commercial customers. The district also implemented a residential lifeline water use rate for the first 5 HCF (hundred cubic feet) consumed monthly. The current cost is $1.214 per HCF. The first five will drop to $1.08 per HCF according to Owens. The water district serves 18,500 treated water customers and 5,800 raw water customers in Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties, Owens said. The Journal's Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at auburnjournal.com.