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Tri-Cities Board Chief Goes on Record

* Several articles concerning the San Mateo Basin Project have contained a number of inaccuracies. It is regrettable that those with various personal political agendas have chosen to compromise a water project which will serve the best interests of South County residents. I would like to set the record straight:

1. The San Mateo Basin Project has been under development between Tri-Cities Municipal Water district and the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton for 15 years and did not surface as a result of current discussions on special district consolidation, as your editorial suggested.

2. Ratepayers in San Clemente and Capistrano Beach will always pay less for San Mateo Basin project water than for MWD imported water, because that is the way the agreement between the agencies is structured. Moreover, initial project costs advanced by Tri-Cities will be reimbursed in full in water credits, by the Marine Corps.

3. Water quality in the San Mateo Basin is excellent. In some cases, the water quality is higher than the imported water we drink today. In all cases, it falls well within state and federal standards. Records verifying this have been made available to the public.

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4. An incorporated city in Orange County cannot legally annex property to operate facilities in San Diego County, nor are any cities currently authorized to operate pipelines or other facilities across central and southern Orange County. Tri-Cities owns and operates water facilities serving several South Orange County water districts.

5. Tri-Cities’ public information program has been driven in large part as a response to the gross misinformation advanced by project detractors and far exceeds any legal requirement. It has been our intent to share information about this project with the ratepayers in a straightforward manner. We have offered to meet with those who have raised questions about the project in an effort to provide a direct response to their questions, but they have refused.

The Tri-Cities director who has chosen to criticize the district for retaining a public information consultant and a legislative support staff in Washington voted affirmatively for both decisions. It is unfortunate that the real issues of south Orange County’s quality of life and our need for another local water supply would be lost to local politics.

What value should we place on 60 days’ emergency supply in the event of a firestorm recurrence or a major quake which separates our vital pipelines or aqueducts?

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WILLIAM C. MECHAM

Board president

Tri-Cities Municipal Water District

San Clemente

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