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Pet Project Alert: The $110 Million Elysian Reservoir-Park

LA WATCHDOG - Ratepayers of the Department of Water and Power are being asked to foot the $110 million bill for the construction of a 55 million gallon underground reservoir to replace the existing Elysian Reservoir and for the creation of a new 12 acre recreation area on top of the new subterranean reservoir.

Yet this recommendation is vastly more expensive than the $25 million Floating Cover alternative recommended by DWP management in 2008.

So this begs two questions.

Should Ratepayers be required to pay the princely ransom of $85 million for a 12 acre park that is really the obligation of the City and the Department of Recreation and Parks?

And what City Councilmen are pressuring DWP to adopt the much more expensive alternative?

The Elysian Reservoir is located in Elysian Park, just north of downtown, in Ed Reyes’ Council District 1 and adjacent to Eric Garcetti’s Council District 13.  The reservoir covers six acres, contains 55 million gallons of drinking water, and serves 285,000 people in an area covering 24 square miles which includes Echo Park, Chinatown, Mount Washington, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, and a large portion of downtown.

As a result of environmental regulations that are designed to ensure water quality, all reservoirs that provide drinking water must be covered to avoid direct contact with the sunlight and limit the intake of storm water.  As a result, DWP developed three plans: the proposed $110 million Buried Reservoir that will take 5.5 years to complete; the $55 million Aluminum Cover that will take 4 years to complete; and the $25 million Floating Cover that will take 2.5 years to complete.

All three alternatives meet the necessary environmental requirements, although the Buried Reservoir alternative will generate significantly more Greenhouse Gas, air quality issues, and noise during its 5.5 years of construction.  

And coupled with the $65 million project to replace and expand the Inlet and Bypass Lines, all three alternatives will result in the reliable delivery of quality drinking water.

The major difference is that the Buried Reservoir achieves the “secondary” objective of providing an additional 12 acres of recreation area in the 575 acre Elysian Park.  

But the cost of $85 million, or over $7 million an acre, a price that rivals the highest prices in the City, is not the responsibility of Ratepayers, especially when Ratepayers are about to get slammed with the triple whammy of multiyear increases in water, power, and sewer rates.  

So to answer the first question of whether the 12 acres of recreation area is the responsibility of the Ratepayers, the answer is not no.  It is HELL NO.

Rather, the $85 million overage is the responsibility of the City and the Department of Recreation and Parks, no matter what selected Councilmen say to justify this fraud upon the Ratepayers.

As the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (“VANC”) stated in its April 18 letter opposing the Buried Reservoir, the funding of this project may violate the City Charter in that this obligation is not a “necessary” expense.

This additional $85 million expense may also be subject to the recently passed Proposition 26, the Super Majority Vote Required to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act.

As for the Councilmen whose backroom maneuvering is responsible for the trying to dump this $85 million cost on the Ratepayers, only time will tell.  But now that scam has been exposed to the bright 'rayes' of the sun, starting with the VANC’s letter opposing the Buried Reservoir alternative favored in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, all Members of the City Council are on notice that this added expense is not acceptable to Ratepayers.  Nor is it proper.

On Saturday, June 4, our Department of Water and Power is presenting its case for multiyear increases in our water and power rates.  As part of that presentation, DWP needs to discuss why the Ratepayers should pay for the Buried Reservoir as well as any other “pet” projects of the Mayor and the City Council.

Is there any wonder why we need a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of DWP on a timely and continuous basis?

78% of voters thought so.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) –cw


CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 43
Pub: May 31, 2011

 

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