The San Diego County Water Authority is upgrading the All-American Canal in the Imperial Valley to increase water supplies from sources other than the Metropolitan Water District. Photo courtesy water authority

The San Diego County Water Authority offered Thursday to end a decade-long rate dispute with the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles.

Board Chair Jim Madaffer sent a letter to MWD directors outlining a compromise approach to end litigation involving billions of dollars charged to deliver independent water supplies from the Colorado River to San Diego.

“Concluding all pending court cases is in the best interest of everyone involved, and it would allow us to begin a new era of collaboration on other important regional and state issues,” said Madaffer, who started his tenure as chair on Oct. 1.

“I hope MWD will embrace this gesture of good faith to seek settlement, and that we can do so in an expeditious and fair manner,” he added.

The San Diego authority won several significant issues in two cases covering MWD’s rates for 2011-2014, but the courts allowed MWD to continue the charges.

As a compromise to end the litigation, Madaffer’s letter offered:

  • Neither party should be expected to give up anything it won in court
  • MWD would change the way it charges for delivering the San Diego authority’s independent supplies from the Colorado River by adopting a fixed price and tying future increases to inflation
  • The San Diego authority would drop pending claims challenging the legality of MWD’s rates
  • The San Diego authority would accept $5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, a substantial reduction from the $8.9 million awarded by the the court
  • MWD’s Board would approve funding for the Carlsbad Desalination Project, the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Project and the Padre Dam-East County Advanced Water Purification Project
  • The San Diego authority would be allowed to store 200,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead

More than 20 years ago the San Diego authority began lessening its reliance on the MWD by securing independent water supplies from the Colorado River. However, that water could only be delivered via pipelines operated by MWD.

The Water Authority filed suit in 2010 seeking to invalidate MWD’s rates, and then filed additional suits in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Earlier this year, the San Diego authority sided with the MWD in conditionally approving Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion delta tunnels project to connect water systems in Northern and Southern California.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.