Vol. 17, No. 13 – Mar 20 – April 2, 2024 – Mailbox

by Veterans for Responsible and Efficient Government Editors

The evidence continues to mount, proving a problem exists with Ventura Water, the Water Commission and VenturaWaterPure.

In 2019, the Carollo Report presented several options to Ventura to VenturaWaterPure, many of which were less expensive. However, the Ventura Water Department convinced the City Council to ignore the report’s options.

A September 12, 2019 report titled Ventura Water Supply Projects and Alternatives shows estimated project costs of another $320 million plus annual operating expenses of $29.Million for VenturaWaterPure. Yet, the Carollo Report presented options costing a mere $50 million for the project and operating costs of only $3.9 Million.

Now after five more years of operating without any severe limitations, more damning evidence surfaced this month when Water Commissioner George Amandola resigned from the commission. Mr. Amandola cited various problems he saw within Ventura Water, the Water Commission, and the City Council. Critical points in the resignation letter are a stultified, bureaucratic, autocratic Ventura Water Department. He lacks confidence in the project management and financial planning for VenturaWaterPure. He also felt that Ventura Water had neutered the Water Commission and prevented it from doing its duty.

These are not frivolous accusations made by an outsider. These are observations made by an insider, capable of seeing the entire landscape of what’s happening with VenturaWaterPure.

Meanwhile, the project’s costs mount. Today, they are half a billion dollars, and it is reasonable to believe they will go even higher. With no ceiling on cost increases, Ventura Water ratepayers bear the burden. Soon, the project’s costs will triple the price of water.

What more evidence does the City Council need to finally admit that there are problems with the Water Department and the Water Commission? How long will the city hide its head in the sand before taking action?

City staff often uses the Consent Decree as an obstacle in addressing Ventura’s water problems. This Consent Decree addresses two issues. Part one is cleaning up the estuary. Extracting the wastewater from the estuary is being accomplished.

Part two is developing a practical use for extracted water. Ventura Water has named this Ventura WaterPure. However, nowhere does it say that Ventura WaterPure must be a stand-alone facility. There are also exceptions to allow for an extension of the timeline of the Consent Decree. Conditions to extend providing proper reuse of the extracted water are financial feasibility and proof that there is a sincere effort to comply with the Consent Decree. Ventura can meet both of these standards. An extension is reasonable and justified.

The major cost factor is that Ventura believes it must have a separate, stand-alone facility to treat the extracted water. While nobody says Ventura WaterPure needs to stop, it simply needs to be processed differently.

Oxnard has an underutilized recycling facility. Ventura Water has refused to consider this option, which would cost Ventura over $200 million.

To solve this issue, the City of Ventura must reconsider all options, including treating the wastewater in Oxnard. The city must issue an up-to-date formal Request for Proposal (RFP) to the City of Oxnard and United Water. Oxnard’s and United’s responses must come directly from them (not via a Ventura Water Department Consultant) and be on their letterhead.

If Ventura partners with other agencies, it must demand documentation for those alternatives. Please do not rely on Ventura Water or its consultants’ estimates and projections. Additionally, Ventura must have a cash flow projection that includes timelines, operating, maintenance, and taxpayer fee schedules.

It’s time for the 2024 Ventura City Council to meet its fiduciary duty. The council must force Ventura Water to provide reliable alternatives to VenturaWaterPure. We now know the “cost to go it alone” exceeds the $200 million Ventura Water projected in 2019. Collaborating with other water agencies may be less costly.

Contact your City Council and demand:

Get a new Request for Proposal (RFP) from the City of Oxnard and United Water.

Have Ventura Water produce a cash flow projection analysis.

Install a new Water Commission with the authority to manage this process and make decisions in the rate payer’s best interest.

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