A new effort to restructure the Imperial Irrigation District’s board of directors met with opposition this week as the water and electricity supplier slammed a bill drafted by the member of the Assembly Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, calling for a study on the current configuration of the IID board of directors.
The proposed legislation, AB 2629, comes as the roughly 60% of IID’s electricity customers who live in Riverside County do not elect a director. Currently, the five directors on the board are from Imperial County. The bill would require the California Energy Commission and other agencies to report on the matter by June 2022.
In the current version of the bill, the results of the study would âmake legislative findings and statementsâ and could impose âa state-mandated local agendaâ. AB 2629 was introduced shortly before the filing deadline in February, and it could be amended as it moves through the legislature.
This is the watered-down sequel to Mayes’ earlier bill, AB 854, died at the end of January. This bill went further, including a proposal to add six council seats, all from Riverside County. Some of the supporters of this bill said they would welcome the idea of ââgiving new board members power only on the electricity side of the IID, but the original text of the bill did not address not from this question.
“We intend to continue to oppose any action from outside interests that wish to fit into our governance structure and policy-making responsibilities,” the board chair said on Wednesday. from IID, Norma Sierra Galindo.
Mayes’ office declined to comment on continuing opposition from the IID.
Proponents of IID’s leadership restructuring characterized the struggle as an issue of representation on a public board.
The city councils of Indio, Indian Wells and La Quinta all supported Mayes’ first bill. âLocal representation is a fundamental aspect of our democratic process,â the city council of La Quinta in Mayes wrote in 2019.
IID supplies electricity to the Imperial Valley and part of the Coachella Valley roughly from Washington Street East. The IID board argued that it did not need a change; it touts its service and rates as superior, noting that they are lower than Southern California Edison’s. SCE serves the western parts of the Coachella Valley.
After a dispute with IID over a demand for increased electrical capacity, Coachella, which hopes to grow its energy-intensive cannabis industry, passed a resolution in November allowing the creation of its own utility.
Mayes’ initial proposal to move the majority of the board north or give IID’s power mandate to a separate entity turned out to be a poison pill. He has since said he hoped further attempts relying on an impartial third party would be a more acceptable path.
“The state is probably going to have to resolve this issue, but we want to do it in partnership with the local entities that would be concerned,” he told the Desert Sun in January.
While the two sides have had some communication on the matter for months, Mayes’ attempts to avoid a political fight appear to have hit a wall.
âWe will do our utmost to maintain the local authority and accountability that comes with providing low cost, efficient and reliable service to all of our customers,â said Galindo.
At a March 10 meeting of the IID Board of DirectorsAntonio Ortega, who manages the district’s government affairs wing, told the board that IID staff remain concerned about “the potential fallout on water department issues.” As the IID provides water to imperial valley farmers who hold prominent water rights, some stakeholders fear that Mayes’ bills may be an attempt to wrest the keys to a precious water.
“Although we have heard and repeated time and again by Assembly Member Mayes and his team that this bill would not impact the service or operations of the IID, it is not certain, “he said.
During the meeting, Vice President Alex Cardenas suggested that if the bill were to go ahead, the IID should push for it to include the Coachella Valley Water District in the discussion. IID and CVWD have an agreement which informs the management of IID of the transmission of electricity in the same area where CVWD is the water supplier.