The high profile rupture of a high pressure water trunk line on Sunset Boulevard that dumped 20 million gallons of water (160 million pounds) onto UCLA and the recently reconstructed Pauley Pavilion is just another example of the City Council’s failure to maintain the City’s aging infrastructure.
While numerous reports over the years have highlighted the problems of the Water Systems aging pipeline infrastructure, the City Council continued to shortchange the Department’s basic maintenance program by diverting Ratepayer funds to their pet projects and to very generous raises for the workers represented by the politically powerful IBEW.
During the City’s financial crisis, DWP was also a dumping ground for 1,600 City workers, costing Ratepayers $175 million a year. These transferred workers also arrived on DWP’s doorstep with $200 million in unfunded pension liabilities.
The Water System also has an ambitious capital expenditure program that is designed to meet the open reservoir requirements of the Clean Water Act. This includes covering numerous reservoirs and the construction of the very expensive and controversial Headworks covered reservoir in Griffith Park.
The Department is also working with the Bureau of Sanitation in developing the capital intensive “One Water 2040 Plan” where DWP and the Ratepayers may bear a disproportionate share of the costs. This very ambitious plan involves the remediation of our polluted aquifers in the San Fernando Valley and the use of recycled water to replenish our aquifers, to provide potable water directly to our homes (Toilet to Tap), and to supply water to the LA River. It also involves the City’s stormwater program, a very expensive proposition that is the City’s responsibility.
At the same time, beleaguered Ratepayers have been socked with significant increases in their water rates (45% over the last two years and over 60% over the last 5 years), in large part because the Department has had to rely on more expensive water supplies from the Bay Delta in northern California as supplies from the Eastern Sierras have been diverted to the ill-conceived Owens Lake dust mitigation program.
Unfortunately, the City Council has punted on maintaining other parts of our infrastructure, including DWP’s Power System that is experiencing problems in executing its Power Reliability Program, in part because the IBEW’s opposition to contracting out work to more efficient independent contractors.
The City Council has also punted on repairing our streets, curbs, and sidewalks that will require an investment of at least to $6 billion over the next twenty years in addition to an annual maintenance budget.
Our parks and trees, the City’s buildings and facilities, our street lights, the City’s management information and computer systems – they are all underfunded as the City Council continues to divert funds to pay for the increases in salaries, pensions, and benefits that exceeded the growth in revenues by at least $500 million a year.
As for the Sunset Boulevard geyser, Councilmembers Koretz, Wesson, and Fuentes have already filed a motion calling for an investigation of this water main break and the Department’s “long term infrastructure program” and a “review/assessment of a more rapid pace of system replacement.”
But any review of the Water System’s infrastructure and long range plans must also include an analysis of the impact on Ratepayers as well as role of City Hall in the mismanagement of DWP’s resources.
The City Council has failed to maintain our infrastructure, whether it is DWP, Public Works, or Recreation and Parks. Therefore, any increase in our water and power rates must be considered in the context of any other proposed tax increases, including any increases in our sales tax (including those related to transportation), property taxes, or any other taxes or fees.
As we remind often in this space, it is way past time for the City Council to be honest with the voters.
Cross-posted at LA City Watch.