The Claremont City Council on Tuesday approved a collaborative agreement that could put La Verne in charge of operating and maintaining Claremont’s water system.
The Claremont Council approved the Memorandum of Understanding between the two cities with a vote of 4-0. The same document will appear before the La Verne Council at this Monday’s meeting.
“This allows us to go further,” said La Verne City Manager Bob Russi of the potential relationship between Claremont and La Verne. “The MOU sets the parameters for us to do more research.”
Claremont outlined its intent to pursue La Verne as a potential operator of its water system in a draft environmental impact report in late January.
Other potential operators mentioned in the draft were Upland, Pomona, the Monte Vista Water District and a private third party.
“It would make sense to cooperate with a city like La Verne, or Pomona, or one of our other neighboring cities,” said Freeman Allen, co-chairman of Sustainable Claremont and co-author of a 2005 study of Claremont’s water supply with the League of Women Voters.
Sustainable Claremont, a private environmental group that works with the city, estimates a savings of about $7 million annually should the city’s water system become municipally operated, using La Verne’s structure as the primary example.
“As local residents and customers you have a greater voice as to what’s going on with your assets here,” said La Verne Public Works Director Dan Keesey.
Claremont’s bid to acquire its water supply from Golden State Water Co., the city’s water provider for more than 75 years, began in response to Golden State Water’s nearly doubling water rates for Claremont residents between 2008 and 2012.
“The rates were going up so rapidly that people were considering not moving into Claremont because of the high water rates,” Allen said.
After Golden State rejected two Claremont bids of $55 million for the water system, the Claremont City Council elected to explore acquiring the system through eminent domain on Nov. 6 of last year.
Eminent domain involves a municipality, like Claremont, seizing private property from a private entity, like Golden State Water, for public use after just compensation.
With a recent statewide stress on water conservation, Claremont residents would benefit from a municipally maintained water supply for other environmental reasons, Allen said.
“Even more important to us was the lack of local control over our water futures,” he said.
“With climate change we’re going to have more drought conditions here. It’s going to be more important to be able to use alternate sources like water reclamation and water conservation measures.”
The Claremont City Council is allowing a 45-day period during which residents may comment on the DEIR.
The Council will review the public opinion at its meeting in March, where it will decide the next step in the acquisition.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.