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Tue, Jul

Stormwater Capture Parks Program: DWP Is Not the City’s ATM

LA WATCHDOG

LA WATCHDOG - The Department of Water and Power is considering entering into a $298 million agreement with the Department of Recreation and Parks to construct subterranean infiltration galleries under City parks to capture 1,800 acre feet of stormwater and urban runoff water a year that will help replenish the San Fernando Groundwater Basin. This will help achieve the City’s goal of capturing 150,000 acre feet of stormwater a year by 2035, even if it is only 1.2% of the goal. 

This proposed Stormwater Capture Parks Program does not pass the smell test. According to the Office of Public Accountability, the Program “is not cost effective as a water source of supply, and as such would have an unreasonable rate impact on DWP customers.” 

For example, the unit cost of approximately $3,600 an acre foot is more than double the cost of treated water provided by the Metropolitan Water District (“MWD”) or that the unit cost is 70% more than other groundwater replenishment programs in the Valley.  

This news was not well received by the DWP Board of Water and Power Commissioners at their meeting on June 28. One commissioner believed that DWP had an agreement to help implement the Mayor’s New Green Deal by financing ten multi-benefit parks by 2025, 100 parks by 2035, and 200 parks by 2050. Another felt that climate change overrode the monetary concerns and that DWP was part of the City family. 

The OPA was also concerned about project delays and cost overruns associated with these complex excavation projects, especially since these projects will be competing for resources with the Olympics. There is also the risk that these projects will not be completed prior to the Olympics. 

The OPA also suggested that this program might violate Proposition 218 and result in litigation since a sizable portion of these expenditures would not benefit Ratepayers.  

The OPA is underestimating the cost of Program. With the price tag of $298 million, the capital cost of each of the 1,800 acre feet captured per year is over $165,000 per acre foot. Assuming a 5% cost of capital and a 35 year life span, the annual cost per acre foot is almost $10,000, eight times the cost of MWD treated water. This does not include any operating and maintenance costs. 

This Stormwater Capture Parks Program is not in the best interest of Ratepayers and should be deep sixed. Furthermore, DWP executive management has demonstrated that it is willing to sell out the Ratepayers. What is particularly aggravating is that the Mayor and the City Council want Ratepayers to pay for City parks after City Hall has defunded the Department of Recreation and Parks through its “full cost recovery” program. 

No wonder Angelenos and Ratepayers do not trust the Mayor, the City Council, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and DWP’s top management.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  [email protected].)

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