Golden State rate hike decision coming soon
Claremont approves plan to buy back water system from Golden State
BARSTOW • After joining with Barstow and other cities earlier this year in a legal battle over rising water prices, Claremont approved a plan to buy back its water system from Golden State Water this week — a month before the ruling on Golden State Water’s rate application is due to be released.
In July 2011, Golden State Water Company filed for authorization to increase revenue, asking for a 21.4 percent increase in 2013, 2.7 percent increase in 2014 and 3.2 percent increase in 2015. It amounts to a 27 percent total increase over the next three years, according to Perry Dahlstrom, district manager at Golden State Water Company.
The ruling on this application is due to be released in November.
Because of outcry in Barstow, the city joined Claremont and the cities of Placentia, Cypress and Stanton to retain an attorney in order to be represented in the regulatory process, according to previous reports.
Seeking to fight these increases, Barstow citizens also joined together to form the Concerned Citizens Water Group at the beginning of this year.
Following settlement hearings from April to June, a joint motion to approve the Golden State Water Company application was passed on July 21, according to Dahlstrom.
Since then, the application has been under review by Administrative Law Judge Robert Smith from the California Public Utility Company. When that ruling is released in November, the CPUC will vote to accept or reject the proposed decision.
Concerned Citizens Water Group Chairman Rudy Alcantara is worried about the affect these increases will have on the region, especially during such a difficult economic time.
“The reality is that (the increases have) hurt Barstow. People are afraid to turn on their water,” Alcantara explained. “People can’t survive doing that.”
Alcantara decided to switch to desert landscaping in his yard to save water, and he says some Barstow residents are facing water bills higher than their mortgages.
While noting that he does not blame the individuals in the company, Alcantara expressed frustration as he feels that Golden State Water Company is getting wealthier while individuals in Barstow are struggling to survive.
According to Dahlstrom, the requested increases are due to normal increases in operational costs and a need for increased infrastructure.
Ultimately, the decision is in the hands of the legal system, according to Alcantara.
“All we can do is follow procedure, but that takes too long,” Alcantara said. “It would be fantastic if they settled for 2 percent. People could adjust to that.”
According to City Manager Curt Mitchell, the proposed settlement for 2013 is 15.1 percent. The settlement will be less than Golden State Water Company originally requested, but it will still be far more than Alcantara believes is manageable for the citizens of Barstow.
Dahlstrom notes that the company’s revenue increases do not directly translate into increased individual water bills. However, there will be some kind of increase for Barstow residents next year.
“We have not done any analysis to customer bills,” Dahlstrom explained. “It is premature.”