An amendment to the state water code signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow the Coachella Valley Water District to prepare for the next wave of housing development that is expected to grow atop what is now farmland.
Senate Bill 171, which was backed by state Sen. Ben Hueso, establishes a process for the water district to propose and collect fees from residential customers who benefit from the drainage system in the eastern portion of the valley. Those fees would be used to pay for the operation and maintenance of the drainage system.
The law amending the state’s water code, which was signed by the governor on Friday, doesn’t guarantee that fees will necessarily be collected from homeowners in CVWD’s service area. When CVWD eventually decides to pursue those fees, the district would have to send out notices and convene a public hearing, adhering to conditions spelled out under Proposition 218.
“There are no plans yet to create new fees, nor has there been a study of what those would be,” said CVWD spokeswoman Heather Engel. “This just gives us the option, if the time comes.”
That time may come when the next housing construction boom eventually reaches the eastern Coachella Valley.
The drainage system’s costs are now covered by the rates farmers pay for irrigation water.
As farmland is converted to subdivisions, the water district would otherwise have had to create an assessment district to keep funding flowing to the drainage system. The water agency says that would have been possible but would have costlier and time-consuming.
Hueso is a San Diego Democrat whose district spans three counties and includes parts of the Coachella Valley. The valley’s two Assembly members, Democrat V. Manuel Pérez and Republican Brian Nestande, also supported the bill when it passed the Assembly in July.