The most recent 4 cycle weed trimmer didn’t even make one year. Nine days short. Strange, I usually get at least two seasons of shoulder discomfort from starting the darn things before something requires replacement or major adjustment. The cycle usually starts with difficult starting and proceeds through “not quite working right”, “losing power”, and then sputtering and coughing just like the operator.
This time however during a lower RPM run it suddenly stopped with a loud metallic sounding “clunk”. Yes — I checked the oil level before starting and filled it to the proper level, used new fuel, even cleaned the air filter. It started fairly easy but only an hour or so
into the chlorophyll splashed slaughter of vegetative offerings the engine to my faithful landscaping weapon seized.
Now the traditional dilemma: spend money on equipment repair or simply acquire another dead tool for display on the “Dead Tool Tree” (a landscaping testament to the money spent on failing tools despite reasonably good care.) Having been down this road a few times already (purchasing “repairs” until the next inoperative incident) I believe the “Dead Tool Tree” is the appropriate choice. Yup, a couple of telephone calls to small
engine repair shops cinched the decision.
PRESCRIPTIVE WATER RIGHT?
Reading select portions of the law (cases, decisions, opinions, statutes, etc) can be quite perilous if the totality of the subject or most recent “final word” from a court has not been considered. Based on limited exposure to a particular legal issue it is understandable how any lay person (regardless of how knowledgeable they might actually be) could accidentally get the “wrong idea” about a legal matter, advocate it to others, and act accordingly.
There is nothing sinister or intentionally deceptive – just a simple misunderstanding motivated by a good faith effort to “do the right thing”. I believe this is exactly what
happened to Victor Afanasiev when he understood properties outside the Merced
Irrigation District Place of Use [MIDPOU], which pay availability fees for future water service, had a “prescriptive water right”. His request that our attorney research the
matter, though well intended, appears to be misdirected.
Below is some information which will clarify the matter and is really quite interesting as to how California operates under a “dual system of water rights which recognizes both the appropriation and the riparian doctrines”.
Basically, Riparian rights involve “land abutting upon a stream or body of water” and Common Law appropriation of a water right goes back to the gold mining days when water was diverted to work mining claims. Posting at the point of water diversion and recording the right with the county were common methods of securing an appropriative water right.
Prescriptive rights have been described as the “parasites of water rights [because] [t]he only way to obtain such rights is to take water rights away from someone else….”)
People v. Shirokow 26 Cal. 3d 301 [Prescriptive rights do not apply-link below]
Here’s some other information from the SWRCB [State Water Resources Control Board] regarding the different types of water rights.
NOTICE there is even a disclaimer in this material on page 3: “While believed to be correct, the information is by no means complete. For additional information, see the California Water Code and case law.” Yes, water law is very complicated.
COMPLICATED ISSUES REQUIRE SPECIFIC EDUCATION, TRAINING AND
I, like everyone else (who is not specifically trained in such matters), can only study and attempt to comprehend some extremely complicated subjects – but that is precisely why the LDPCSD has legal representation specializing in water law. Until convinced that such representation is inadequate I will do my best to adhere to the attorney’s commendations, suggestions, and legal opinions regarding legal matters and what is best for this district.
Others may choose to elevate their perspective and opinion above that of our attorney, believing the later incorrect in some respect, however, I believe such action could be very dangerous. If individual lay opinions are to replace our legal representation, something is very wrong, but again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. (Which is why electing others to represent the public’s best interest is so very important.)
OUTSIDE MIDPOU RESOLUTION
Although disappointed the resolution to prohibit further Outside MIDPOU [OMIDPOU] properties from further taxing the Ranchito Well production again failed, anything orthwhile takes time and this issue cannot be postponed indefinitely considering the circumstances and necessity for action. Heck the problem itself took decades to develop spanning many different boards and administrations.
Actually this recent focus on the OMIDPOU Properties will likely produce information long sought which will enable all of us to better understand exactly how this district became so entangled in the issue of what water can be distributed, and where.
Inexorably linked to this is the question of who should reasonably be saddled with the any added financial responsibility of providing a special benefit to properties outside the permitted area for Merced River water consumption under the water license?
EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
For whatever reasons, Outside MIDPOU [OMIDPOU] water service is an exception to the rule and as such, should likely be viewed differently than those traditional “availability properties” which have the right to Merced River water and have always paid availability, or standby, fees since the beginning.
“STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK”
No one knows how many more connections to the well can be made without jeopardizing what is already served to OMIDPOU customers, but caution is obviously warranted. The
engineer report concluded the well is 50% of its sustainable yield (I believe there is a bit of “wiggle room” in the calculations).
ADDITIONAL CONNECTIONS FOR WHAT?
Additional connections are one concern, but what about the anticipated water consumption for each of those connections? Will they be normal domestic single family
residential hookups? Perhaps the acreage is proposed to be a mini-subdivision with a number of other connections? What about another commercial cattle or other livestock type ranching activity? There are a number of other high consumptive enterprises which could be the down fall of the Ranchito Well.
Were “exceptions” made to include properties with no reasonable or immediate expectation of residential domestic water use? Were connections made for speculative land development or potential commercial benefits outside the permitted use
area? If this is so, is it fair or reasonable to require 99% of the “legal use” customers to subsidize private commercial enterprises and profit through the financing of a special benefit outside the permitted water use area?
A possible solution has been theorized: MID and the SWRCB might somehow feel sorry
for the district’s failure to conform in the past and will simply turn a blind eye and permit the district to do whatever it wants. Considering MID is the entity that holds the license and is responsible to the SWRCB for state water law violations, I personally doubt MID would willingly gamble further potential liability (fines or other State correction) because of compassion for this district’s difficulty in supplying water to every property owner who desires service in the vicinity.
Apparently there was an attempt at an “Administrative Remedy” years ago where our permitted area to serve Merced River water was to be expanded, however, complications developed and the process was halted with the determination that a full blown change petition would have to be filed with the SWRCB. This is very expensive process and fraught with potential legal protests and objections from other water users downstream, and for us, that means the very organized Delta-Bay area.
Certainly the approval by the SWRCB of a petition to change the place of use would be absolutely wonderful, and perhaps a dedicated effort towards that possibility should be maintained, but first things first. A priority should be to deal with what has already been created.
“ANARCHY IS BETTER THAN NO GOVERNMENT AT ALL”
Probably my favorite oxymoron.
And what about the person who defiantly says “I’m an atheist and thank God for it”? lol
“ONLY HOW MUCH AN ACRE?”
Recently I remembered an oxymoron from an old college Public Administration course – “honest Graft”. How only a small amount of “insider information” could be unethically (and criminally) used to obtain substantial sums of money. One example was how government projects, like military bases, were often designed and located away from more highly populated areas. (Errant air drops, forced landings/accidents, ICBM mishaps, artillery shelling, noise, etc.) My miniscule experience as a “military brat” would tend to substantiate this observation considering some of bases Dad had been stationed. Yep, made sense such facilities would be out in the boonies a bit – then slowly other businesses and communities grow around the installation figuring the commercial benefits
outweighed the risk of injury/damage.
So what if the DOD (Department of Defense) or some subcommittee was considering construction of a new facility somewhere? (Remember the Cold War era when the emphasis was on rapid construction of bases not decommissioning them?) Only a small piece of information, like which state and county such a complex might be built, could reap huge monetary rewards. Not only could an individual or company purchase land for next to nothing then sell it back to the government at a greatly enhanced price but they’d have the ground floor on configuring the infrastructure and supporting entities for an entire community which could be quite lucrative. Presto: “Honest graft”.
Naturally there are a multitude of laws and regulations covering such stuff now, heck there probably were then, but the point is certain information at the right time can be very aluable. Wall Street insider trading…..what has the country learned from that little game?
Subprime loans? Blah, blah, blah……
BACK TO THE SUBJECT— WATER
. . . . .California’s new gold!
“Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting
over”. Attributed to Mark Twain. Here’s a humorous and interesting perspective about whiskey and the advancement of civilization by Mark Twain http://www.twainquotes.com/WaterWhiskey.html
WHERE IS THE WATER GOING TO GO?
Similar to asking where a new government facility might be built huh? Drought prone foothill land sure would be worth a lot more money if potable water could be delivered right to the property line of where someone was going to build a home, and after all,
with a few exceptions the water was primarily intended for domestic residential
consumption in the subdivision.
In 1968 Sierra Highlands Water Company President Thad Binkley made an agreement with the Sturtevant Ranch agreeing to provide 10 free water meters and $500 for some Sturtevant land upon which a water tank and access road would be constructed.
Unfortunately, documents on file with authorities do not recognize this inclusion into the water license place of use, thus all those additional properties fall outside the MIDPOU and must receive water from the Ranchito Well. [The LDPCSD service boundary is
different than the area of service permitted under the water license – the service boundary was expanded outside the MIDPOU. Apparently, this expansion was done while the
State of California was actively pursuing a more regulated water management program and around the same time this district was formed as a public agency rather than a private water company as initially constructed.]
The Revised June 1978 Merced Irrigation District map entitled “Areas of domestic water use” is the official map filed with the State Water Resources Regional Control Board (SWRCB) which essentially is a footprint of the original Sierra Highlands residential development. Sierra Highlands was the predecessor to the Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association subdivision although some properties, such as Units 4,5,& 6-M (Kassabaum Flats) reverted to acreage and 7-M (the property around Azulete Way off Hidalgo Street east of the elementary school) also opted out of the Association and had no line extension agreements with Sierra Highlands.
The transfer of facilities and assets agreement by Sierra Highlands to the District occurred in August of 1980. [The actual vote to form the district was 88 yes and 29 no.] The contract provided for the district to operate and maintain the water system, to “provide water service to all lands and customers within Sierra’s present service area” and subject to certain conditions respecting connection charges and other details.” This is where things started to get mixed up. What if a property was being served water by Sierra Highlands even though it was technically “outside” the original residential subdivision?
Water License 11395 in August of 1983 referred to the service area as: “Domestic use at home sites within the service area of Sierra Highlands Water Company and a 55 acre golf course” and the 1978 Map again depicts that service area. (The golf course is actually 155 acres and was referred to in some material as a “gold” course.)
JUNE 1978 MAP
The water license limits use of Merced River water (Lake McClure) to the 1978 MID Map (essentially the subdivision and golf course), however, through the years water has been diverted outside the place of use to adjacent or nearby properties to the subdivision. MID in 2000 issued a cease and desist letter which clearly stated all outside MID Place of Use water must be supplied by an alternative source – not the Merced River (Lake McClure). The Ranchito Well became that source of OMIDPOU water which is comingled with river water, treated, stored, and distributed to outside place of use properties. As already mentioned, the engineer recommends no further connections (water demand) on the well.
Now this new issue revolves around a limited number of property owners (total outside place of use properties is 34 which is around 1% of the total customer base) who have supposedly been paying availability fees (Maximum $180 a year) for future water that the Ranchito Well may or may not now be able to produce.
Another aspect of this mess is that our ground well water, due to minerals/chemicals, is actually harmful to some of the equipment at the LDPCSD which was designed as a surface water treatment facility drawing water from Lake McClure, which as we all know, if fed by the Merced River originating in Yosemite National Park, and is fantastic water.
ANXIOUS FOR THE FACTS
Well the recent office fire sure didn’t help much in obtaining information any faster and I am curious as to how many OMIDPOU customers have been paying availability fees and for how long. Whether they annexed or paid a buy-in fee? (Which I believe was intended to recoup the difference paid in fees by other legal users who had always paid availability.) What is the estimated water consumption per connection? Are these properties planned
residential or commercial? Are water mains or laterals present? Have these other projects stalled as in the South Shore project? Or the township proposed by the Deerwood Corporation with huge man-made lakes and fountains? What about the envisioned multi-story building at T-Corners? Or concept of a modern day ghost town also at T-corners?
Blah, blah, blah… lots of grandiose plans but one of the key factors has always been the acquisition of enough water.
Director Emery Ross is an Outside MIDPOU customer with two meters. He owns and operates a commercial cattle ranching business and believes the district should drill more ground wells, but again, I must respectfully disagree for three main reasons: 1)
Ground wells are expensive to develop, 2) Can be unreliable in this fractured rock
geology, and 3) It is unfair to require the majority of customers to financially fund a special benefit, especially if a commercial enterprise
WITHOUT “SKIN IN THE GAME”
Without something to lose there are those Outside Place of Use property owners who could care less about the Ranchito Well or the additional costs and procedures required to provide that alternative water source. Some have even advocated further expansion of the district to include multiple subdivisions with hundreds of homes. Why should they care? If the Ranchito Well goes out the district will simply cover all the costs of repair or replacement. This course “boils down” to the fact all customers (water consuming and availability fee paying properties alike) will cover the costs of a special benefit they do not receive.
THE “OMIDPOU SBAZ”
The Outside Merced Irrigation District Place of Use Special Benefit Assessment Zone
A while back I mentioned the idea of a special benefit assessment zone where those who require the Ranchito well, for co-mixing of Merced River water for their OMIDPOU properties, could form their own organization of service. The additional costs associated
with the Ranchito Well for supplying water to outside permitted areas (called “ground water substitution for surface water transfer”) would be borne by those receiving that special benefit. This is the same principal as the sewer system around the golf course where only those properties connected to the sewer system pay for that service, not the majority of owners who have private onsite septic systems.
Every OMIDPOU SBAZ connected property would share in and fund the additional costs required for maintenance, repair, future replacement, power, testing and monitoring of the well. The OMIDPOU SBAZ membership could decide whether additional connections
would be in the group’s best interest. The LDPCSD would continue to co-mingle
Merced Water, perform treatment, testing, storage, distribution and billing for
the finished product.
The costs would not be significant if the Ranchito Well continues to serve those already connected and that water consumption does not increase drastically (subdivisions and other high water usage businesses). If, however, further expansion of the OMIDPOU
service area gets expensive with ground well drilling, pumps, boosters, and other
equipment, those costs should be absorbed by those who receive the benefit.
HOW DID THIS MESS DEVELOP?
Will you annex? Sure you bet. Will you pay a buy-in fee to make up for all the fees veryone else in the district has paid since before and during the district’s inception? No
problem. Better yet…. How about I don’t pay anything until I actually need the water?
Great, it’s a deal. I’ll pay $180 a year to insure that I can get water someday even though my property is outside the MIDPOU and I have no idea when or what I might construct in the future. You’ve got a deal!
Heck, that’s only a step up from those properties that are within our district boundary yet do not contribute one thin dime to support district operations. Gee, they can even be the deciding votes on who represents the entire customer base (realizing of course most of our customers are absentees and usually cannot participate in CSD elections anyway).
Again, it took quite a while for this problem to develop but it obviously needs to be addressed.
My best to you and yours, Lew