Water district concludes year-long security review

Following a yearlong assessment of security at facilities owned and operated by the Santa Fe Irrigation District, one board member who sat on a special ad hoc security committee said, “I’m very happy with the way it’s going.”

The district launched the security review at the urging of board member Alan Smerican, a retired FBI agent, corporate security manager and security consultant. Smerican and fellow board member Augie Daddi sat on the ad hoc committee and oversaw the security review.

At the district board of directors meeting on Thursday, Oct. 20, the board met in closed session to discuss the committee’s final report, and then voted in public session to dissolve the ad hoc committee now that its work is completed. Going forward, the board directed general manager Mike Bardin to provide twice-yearly security updates.

Smerican, in an interview after the meeting, said he could not discuss any of the specific recommendations made by the committee, or the costs associated with any updated security measures.

“It would be foolish to discuss your security measures in public, it would defeat what you are doing,” Smerican said.

But he would say that the review undertaken by the committee involved all aspects of district operations, including cyber security and security of physical facilities.

The district provides water to residents of Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and Fairbanks Ranch, and its facilities include reservoirs, pipelines, pumping stations and treatment plants.

Smerican was elected to the Santa Fe board in 2012, and one of his campaign promises was to beef up the district’s security.

He said he had observed no specific security lapse that made him feel the review was needed.

“It’s what I didn’t see, the procedures that I felt should be in place, the things I dealt with my whole career and I didn’t see it there,” Smerican said.

Over the past year, he said, attitudes toward security issues have changed for the better within the district, from the board of directors down through the ranks of employees.

The issue is now in the forefront with the board of directors, management and workers, who have formed their own committees to deal with security issues, he said.

In his remarks at the board meeting, Smerican said the security review may pay additional dividends through cost savings and improvements in efficiency.

“It forces you to think about why you do certain things. It forces you to rethink your operations,” Smerican said.

The ad hoc committee completed its task as Smerican - whose four-year term ends in December - is about to step down from the board, since he opted not to run for another term.

He said he believes the security overhaul is one of the biggest accomplishments of his tenure on the board, and that he is confident that security will continue to be a priority once he leaves the board.

“I’ve seen the change in attitude in the past year,” he said.

Bardin said the commitment to focus on security will continue after Smerican leaves the board.

“The importance of maintaining a strong security posture in the water sector will continue to be a district and industry priority,” Bardin said.