Fee Opposed In Chelan PUD Acquisition Of Peshastin Water District
The Chelan PUD's plan to acquire the Peshastin Water District is meeting resistance because of an added fee customers would be paying to cover improvement costs.
The fee, or what's called an "adder", would be $16.00 a month for residential customers.
PUD Commissioner Randy Smith says they need to figure out a way to make the improvements without putting a financial burden on Peshastin customers.
"What are the options there to make this work for the people," said Smith. "And that's what it's about, making it work for the residents of Peshastin."
Smith and other commissioners made comments during a Peshastin Water District Acquisition Public Hearing at their meeting this week.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the rate plan for Peshastin customers at their next meeting in early February.
Peshastin residents and businesses are objecting to the adder, and question whether it's really needed. The adder was the major topic at a public meeting last Wednesday in the town.
PUD Commissioner Steve McKenna says they need to delay the adder or find a way to eliminate it.
“I don’t think the adder should start until the capital project’s done, and we should do everything on our part to try and not to have it happen,” said McKenna.
The PUD plans to invest $2.6 million in capital improvements, including $1.9 million for a new well.
The well is needed to replace aging wells that are beyond their normal life period, and to keep water right in place by drawing new water.
The district currently has valuable water rights it is not using and will likely lose those rights if they are not using the water. The only way to use the water is with a new well.
In Washington state, water must be put to full beneficial use before the water rights are protected, or “perfected” in state terminology.
The PUD is using internal loans from its department to cover costs in acquiring the water district
The internal loans will replace the Peshastin Water District's existing external loans (just under $1 million in 2023) and cover construction costs for the new well as well as other capital projects.
The “adder” for Peshastin customers will be $16/month per residential customer, $30/month per commercial customer and $1,655/month per industrial customer.
The adder was reduced from several weeks ago because interest rates for the loans are now lower, and because some additional money was generated by the Peshastin Water District.
Earlier estimates for the residential customer adder were as high as $38/month.
Qualifying residential low-income senior/disabled customers are eligible for a $20/month discount.
There are only two companies operating in Peshastin that use power at the level of an industrial customer. Blue Bird, Inc. and Peshastin Hi-Up both package tree fruit for area growers. Representatives from those businesses also raised concerns about the adder and its impact on their operations.
The adder charges to Peshastin customers will sunset once the capital projects internal loan is paid off.
The PUD plans to finalize its acquisition of the Peshastin Water District in March.
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Gallery Credit: Jaime Skelton